As many as half of people living with an eating disorder also struggle with a substance use disorder. Substance abuse occurs as much as five times more frequently among those with eating disorders than the rest of the population.
Bulimia and alcohol addiction are part of a growing problem of co-occurring substance use and eating disorders among young women in the United States. While young women are the most affected, people of all ages and genders experience co-occurring bulimia and alcoholism. Studies have shown that women diagnosed with bulimia are more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder than women who do not have bulimia.
How Does Alcohol Affect Bulimia?
Independently, Bulimia and alcohol use disorders can cause significant harm and damage to the body and when these disorders co-occur, the negative side effects are exacerbated. Both disorders can cause nutrient deficiencies and damage to vital organs. When they are co-occurring, the damage is likely to be more severe and occur more quickly.
Bulimia may increase susceptibility to illnesses and alcohol use has been shown to weaken the immune system. So when bulimia and alcoholism are combined, related immune system insufficiencies can cause an increase in illnesses. If an illness develops in an already stressed body, it is likely to last longer and be more severe than if it infected someone who was in better health.
Alcohol use on its own can cause many significant physical ailments including heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease and cancer. Bulimia is also known for causing several physical problems including dental decay, changes in the chemistry of the intestines and damage to the esophagus. The combination of bulimia and alcohol side effects can cause any of the physical ailments to appear more rapidly and with greater severity.
Not only do co-occurring bulimia and alcohol use disorders have a significantly higher rate of physical ailments, but they also have more mental health difficulties. Some common mental health complications of these co-occurring disorders include: increased anxiety and depression, more frequent psychiatric hospitalization, increased suicidal ideation and impairments in social and interpersonal functioning.
Women who have both an eating disorder and a substance use disorder are more likely to be diagnosed with a personality disorder. The most common personality disorder diagnosed among people with an eating and substance use disorder is borderline personality disorder.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Bulimia and Alcoholism
Bulimia and alcoholism treatment are not often integrated despite clinical evidence suggesting this as the best option for alcohol and bulimia recovery. Researchers have theorized both disorders may be caused by similar psychological problems and needs.
These two conditions may share the same l factors but if not treated together, one or both problems are likely to persist. It is best to treat co-occurring disorders simultaneously. Through treatment, the brain reward pathways can be healed and healthy functioning can be restored.
Helping a Loved One With Bulimia And Alcohol Addiction
Understanding the unique complications of these co-occurring disorders is important when assisting a loved one with bulimia and alcoholism. Finding a treatment facility that can provide effective treatment for both disorders is essential.
Key Points: Bulimia And Alcohol
Some relevant facts to remember about Bulimia and Alcohol Use Disorder include:
- Bulimia and alcohol use disorders commonly co-occur.
- While treatment is complicated with these co-occurring disorders recovery is possible.
- As many as half of people living with an eating disorder also struggle with a substance use disorder.
- Independently, Bulimia and alcohol use disorders can cause significant harm and damage to the body and when these disorders co-occur, the negative side effects are exacerbated.
If you believe you or a loved one may have an eating disorder, take this self-assessment. The Recovery Village can provide treatment for co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health disorders including eating disorders. Reach out to a representative to learn more about treatment options.
Alcohol’s Effects on the Body. (n.d.). Anderson, L., Shaw, J. M., & McCargar, L. (n.d.). Physiological effects of bulimia nervosa on the gastrointestinal tract. Dansky, B. S., Brewerton, T. D., & Kilpatrick, D. G. (2000, March). Comorbidity of bulimia nervosa and alcohol use disorders: Results from the National Women’s Study. Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders. (2018, February 26).
Alcohol’s Effects on the Body. (n.d.).
Anderson, L., Shaw, J. M., & McCargar, L. (n.d.). Physiological effects of bulimia nervosa on the gastrointestinal tract.
Dansky, B. S., Brewerton, T. D., & Kilpatrick, D. G. (2000, March). Comorbidity of bulimia nervosa and alcohol use disorders: Results from the National Women’s Study.
Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders. (2018, February 26).