Dealing with addiction alone is dangerous. But, when it’s brought on by other issues or other issues arise as a result of addiction, it’s even more deadly. While dealing with both mental health issues and addiction may seem like a supernatural challenge, the hard truth is that a large percentage of addicts live with concurring mental health issues. With the increasing number of overdose deaths as each new day arises, it becomes more and more important that individuals are aware of both addiction and mental health issues, as they commonly go hand in hand. Some of the mental health issues many individuals struggle with alongside addiction are eating disorders. Fortunately, there is hope for people who are dealing with both issues through guided treatment. But, it only works when individuals are ready to seek the help they need to get better. When we can identify our problems, we have a better way of getting the help we need and preventing tragedy.
The Reality of Mental Health Issues like E.D. in the U.S.
There are over 20 million women in the United States alone that struggle with an eating disorder at some time in their lives. And, that’s just the people who get help. Basically, eating disorders are specific types of mental health issues that affect an individual’s body image, eating habits, self-confidence, and behavior. The emotions and thoughts that go along with eating disorders usually lead individuals to try drugs or alcohol to mask the pain. But, eventually, individuals living with eating disorders who use drugs experience consequences which can impact every aspect of life. There are a number of types of eating disorders including:
Anorexia Nervosa: Individuals diagnosed with this disorder usually have distorted self-image. So, they may feel and even look overweight to themselves, but in all reality are malnourished and underweight. This condition is usually characterized by neglecting to eat, impulsivity to frequently check weight, and obsession with weight and food intake.
Bulimia Nervosa: Like individuals diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, those with this condition have a distorted self-image. So, individuals diagnosed with Bulimia may be obsessed with food intake, over-exercise, and even take laxatives as a means to weight loss. But, Bulimia Nervosa is specifically characterized by eating large amounts in one sitting (bingeing) and then forcibly self-inducing vomiting (purging) to rid of the food and prevent digestion.
Binge Eating Disorder: The most commonly diagnosed eating disorder in the U.S., Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by non-stop eating for a period of time, also known as binge eating. Afterward, feelings of shame, guilt, and sadness may be experienced, and the cycle continues all over again.
Pica: Characterized as a condition in which one eats inedible objects for a period of at least one month or longer, this condition is one which usually ties to other mental health issues. While it’s relatively uncommon, it’s still an issue which needs immediate addressing.
Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified: When an individual is living with symptoms and characteristics of the eating disorders listed above but do not meet every criterion to meet diagnosis, it’s known as an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). It’s thought that over half the people that seek help for an eating disorder meet EDNOS criteria. And, a tenth of the individuals diagnosed with EDNOS also live with substance abuse disorder and can be classified as dual diagnosis.
The Combination of Both Mental Health Issues
It’s thought that almost 9 million Americans are living with both mental health issues and substance abuse disorder. Of these people, many are struggling with an eating disorder. For many, dealing with addiction may lead to a developed eating disorder. Constantly seeking a drug of choice may result in neglecting to eat. Or, addiction can lead to distorted thinking; which may grow to the body image distortion many with Anorexia or Bulimia deal with on a daily basis. However, most individuals with concurring eating disorders and addictions develop addiction as a result of eating disorders. Distorted self-image or self-loathing can lead to serious depression and high anxiety. So, drugs are usually used as a way to self-medicate the pain of the mind. However, long-term use forms both physical and psychological dependence, resulting in the continual use of drugs to avoid experiencing withdrawal.
While dealing with any mental health issue is concerning, living with both addiction and eating disorders is especially dangerous. Some serious side effects of living with both addiction and an eating disorder can include:
Damage to Health: Both eating disorders and addiction can wreak serious damage on the body’s organs. Malnourishment leads to the body’s cells using one another for energy, resulting in the body pulling healthy cells from bone marrow, brain mass, and other tissues the body needs to remain healthy. Overeating can lead to obesity which also leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart issues. Finally, vomit contains stomach acid, so purging can lead to a number of consequences to oral health. Additionally, addiction can lead to a number of dangerous physical consequences like heart disease, high blood pressure, organ failure, and much more. The combination of both addiction and eating disorders not only makes these consequences more likely but inevitable.
Mental Health Issues Intensified: Rather than experiencing relief from symptoms of eating disorders, using drugs can actually make symptoms worse. This can result in even stronger desires to perform self-harming behaviors like overeating, neglecting to eat, and purging with various methods.
Masking Eating Disorders: Far too often, individuals will get help for an addiction but don’t even know they’re living with an eating disorder as well. So, they don’t get the specialized care they need to obtain true and lasting healing. That’s because drug addiction commonly will mask symptoms of an eating disorder, as they can seem similar upon initial assessment.
For those living with both eating disorders and addiction, a dual diagnosis program is essential. This way, both mental health issues can be addressed. If only addiction is addressed throughout treatment, thinking patterns and impulsive behaviors related to eating disorders may still remain once treatment concludes. And, these can be relapse triggers which can lead an individual straight back to using their drug of choice. However, if both issues are identified, confronted, and treated through various means during an individual’s time spent at treatment, there is a much better chance at obtaining successful, long-term sobriety and healing.
The Lily Pad of St. Augustine is a women’s sober living environment for individuals who have lived with both addiction and eating disorders. After receiving treatment, women recovering from mental health issues like addiction and eating disorders shouldn’t go right back to living at home to be surrounded by a number triggers which could lead to relapse. Instead, it’s suggested that they continue living a lifestyle which constantly incorporates recovery goals and accountability. This way, women can relearn how to establish healthy living behaviors and thought processes which are vital to sustained healing. If you or a loved one needs treatment for eating disorders or addiction, or have recently graduated from some sort of treatment facility, we can help!
Call us today at 561-758-1011 to speak with an experienced addiction and eating disorder specialist about our specialized sober living environments in both West Palm Beach and St. Augustine, Florida. You don’t have to live with either eating disorders or addiction; you can be free of both with a little bit of determination and a lot of support!