Binge Eating and Alcohol
Excessive use of alcohol and binge eating disorder frequently co-occur. Binge drinking alcohol, binge eating and any other compulsive bingeing behavior is likely an attempt to deal with negative emotions. This overindulgence is neither healthy nor rational. This type of behavior prevents someone from effectively dealing with emotional triggers. Someone ’s emotional state may worsen when engaging in bingeing because it can lead to feelings of shame, guilt and self-pity.
How Does Alcohol Affect Binge Eating?
Alcohol reduces someone’s inhibitions. As a result, people may act on impulses they would normally suppress after drinking to excess. This is one way that alcohol can trigger binge eating. Bingeing related disorders often are related to negative feelings like depression. After consuming alcohol many people feel anxious or depressed. Binge eating may occur to reduce these after-effects of drinking with hopes that it may improve mood.
Can Alcoholism Cause Binge Eating?
Researchers have found binge eating after drinking alcohol is common. While it may seem counterintuitive because alcohol typically has a lot of calories, it appears that ingesting alcohol increases hunger.
Excessive drinking may activate the same part of the brain as hunger causing binge eating. The more frequently someone drinks excessively, the more likely they are to engage in a pattern of binge eating.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Binge Eating and Alcoholism
Studies have shown that people who have both an eating disorder and a substance use disorder have more severe symptoms and poorer treatment outcomes. However, treatment can still be effective and recovery is possible. Factors of effective treatment for co-occurring disorders include:
- Challenging unhelpful attitudes and beliefs
- Increasing coping skills
- Identifying potential obstacles
- Creating a setback prevention plan
- Educating the patient about similarities between the disorders and risks of the disorders
- Dietary education and planning
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) appears particularly helpful for people with co-occurring disorders. Someone going through DBT will be taught skills and engage in homework assignments intended to help practice the skills. DBT consists of individual therapy, group skills training, and phone coaching between sessions.
Helping a Loved One With Binge Eating and Alcohol Addiction
If you believe a loved one may be struggling with an alcohol use disorder, you can take this self-assessment to help identify symptoms. After the results are emailed to you, you’ll also be provided with information that can help you with learning about treatment options for you or your loved one.
Key Points: Binge Eating and Alcoholism
Some relevant facts to remember about binge eating and alcoholism include:
- When a substance use disorder occurs along with an eating disorder such as binge eating disorder, stakes are raised.
- Whether the eating disorder or the substance use disorder came first, prompt treatment to address both disorders is imperative.
If you or someone you know is struggling with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders like binge eating and alcohol addiction, help is available. At The Recovery Village, a team of professionals offers several treatment programs for substance use and mental health disorders. Call and speak with a representative to learn more about which program could work for you.
Brown, D. (2016, April 06). Binge Eating and Binge Drinking: Same Origins.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for Mental Health Problems. (n.d.).
Gregorowski, C., Seedat, S., & Jordaan, G. P. (2013, November 07). A clinical approach to the assessment and management of co-morbid eating disorders and substance use disorders.
Mayo Clinic. (2018, May 05). Binge-eating disorder.
NAMI. (n.d.). Eating Disorders.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.