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Opening April 2019

Eating Disorders and Addiction

There's no denying the link between eating disorders and addiction. The two are often linked together. It's a bond that might be stronger than even many clinicians realize

Eating Disorders

This link has become even more apparent because of research done in recent years. According to Social Work Today:

Up to one half of people with eating disorders abuse alcohol or illicit drugs.
This is in comparison to only 9% of the general population.
35% of those who abuse alcohol or drugs also have eating disorders.
This is in comparison to 3% of the general population.
Those with eating disorders and those with addictions share similar risk factors.

The fact is that we live in a culture where eating disorders are prominent. There are so many people who suffer from them in the United States. In fact, according to the ANAD:

  • 30 million people of all ages and genders are reported to be suffering from eating disorders in the U.S.
  • One person dies from an eating disorder every 62 minutes.
  • More people die from eating disorders than from any other mental illness.
  • 13% of women over the age of 50 exhibit behaviors characteristic of eating disorders.
  • 16% of all transgender college students report having an eating disorder.
  • For military personnel, 5.5% of women and 4% of men had eating disorders as they began serving.
  • As time went on, 3.3% more women and 2.6% more men developed eating disorders.

These statistics are unnerving. It's clear that now more than ever, people with these conditions need professional help.

Here at Northpoint Washington, we understand how serious eating disorders are. We also understand how they correlate with drug and alcohol addictions. We've been able to offer help to so many people who have suffered with these co-occurring disorders. Dual diagnosis treatment (or integrative addiction treatment) has proven to be helpful for so many.

Perhaps you're someone who has an eating disorder and an addiction. You may feel trapped in a constant cycle of using, quitting and relapsing. It's something that makes you feel hopeless, like there's no way out. We want you to know that there is a way out, but it involves getting the right kind of help.

It can be very beneficial for you to learn as much as you can about eating disorders and addiction. Once you find out more about them, and how they are related, you will understand the need for treatment.

Eating Disorders Explained in Detail

"Hi. I'm recovering from an eating disorder. Yes, you may ask me how I'm doing. I may not always be honest. My behaviors will often tell you more than my words. Yes, you may tell me I look beautiful. I may not always believe you. Yes, you will say the wrong things sometimes. I may not always take offense to them.Yes, I appreciate your support, love, time, money, and efforts. I may not always act like it. It's just as confusing for you as it is for me. But I promise to keep trying. It's the only choice I have."
-Anonymous

For the people who are suffering from an eating disorder, their lives are spent hungry. They're not always hungry for food. Rather, they're hungry for a feeling of satisfaction. This is the desire that keeps them searching for a number on the scale they deem low enough. It's the desire that keeps them searching for the right image in the mirror. They're always looking for more, and try as they might, they never attain it.

An eating disorder is a very serious behavioral problem that can affect anyone.

There are different types of eating disorders. However, they generally involve eating too much or eating too little. Someone who suffers from an eating disorder may live in constant fear of gaining weight. He or she spends a great deal of time obsessing about the scale or the image in the mirror.

Statistically speaking, women are much more likely to have eating disorders than men are. However, there are men who battle them as well. They may start at any time, but quite often, they begin during the teenage years. It's common for anxiety, depression and substance abuse to accompany them.

Are There Various Types of Eating Disorders?

There are several different types of eating disorders that people can suffer from. You'll see that no two eating disorders are exactly alike. However, they do all cause serious problems. The various types of eating disorders include:


For someone who has anorexia nervosa, he or she does not eat enough food. Over time, that leads to a weight that is very low. This individual lives in constant fear of gaining weight. There is an obsession with the number on the scale. Any increase is disastrous. Someone with anorexia nervosa will participate in various behaviors to prevent weight gain. He or she doesn't recognize the severity of the situation at all.


Someone with bulimia nervosa will frequently consume large amounts of food all in one sitting. This individual will then act to prevent any weight gain. This could include inducing vomiting or taking excessive amounts of laxatives. During the binge-eating sessions, there is a complete lack of self-control. Bulimia nervosa is characterized by a lack of self-esteem that is related to body image only.


For the individual with binge eating disorder, he or she often consumes a large quantity of food at once. Unlike bulimia nervosa, someone with this disorder does not try to prevent weight gain. When indulging, it is done without self-control, and there are strong feelings of shame and guilt. Binge eaters will generally eat when they're alone. They also eat until they're uncomfortable, or unable to consume any more food. They will eat even when they're not hungry at all.


Someone with this eating disorder have symptoms that don't match the other types. They struggle with eating food, and getting enough vitamins and nutrients. This results in dramatic weight loss in many cases. They may not have an appetite, have problems digesting food, or be afraid to eat after choking. This condition often begins during childhood, but it can persist into adulthood. This can lead to social problems, or problems at work for adults.


According to WebMD, as many as 26% of people suffer from Pica. This eating disorder is characterized by a desire to eat items that aren't food. For example, someone who eats dirt, paint chips or paper might be suffering from Pica. This leads to severe nutritional deficiencies, and can cause a multitude of medical problems.

What are the Signs of an Eating Disorder?

It is possible to be suffering from an eating disorder but not realize it. People often become obsessed with ideas about food and their weight. Still, they may not believe that there is anything inherently wrong with that. Teenagers may be obsessed about their weight because their friends are, for example.

Perhaps your situation is similar. You may have many of the signs of an eating disorder without being aware of it. It's important to know the symptoms so that you know whether or not you need help.

Some of the most common signs of an eating disorder include:

  • Constantly being on a diet even when you are underweight.
  • Experiencing frequent weight fluctuations.
  • Becoming obsessed with counting calories.
  • Becoming obsessed with food.
  • Exhibiting food rituals. Examples might include cutting it into small pieces, hiding food or eating alone.
  • Becoming fixated on creating elaborate recipes, but not eating the food.
  • Exhibiting lethargy.
  • Symptoms of depression.
  • Avoiding social functions that may involve eating.
  • Withdrawing from family or friends.
  • Switching between not eating and binge eating.

Another symptoms of eating disorders that should not be ignored is the presence of medical problems. Because of fasting, overindulgence in food and other factors, people with eating disorders tend to have various medical complications. These tend to vary, based on the type of eating disorder that is present, but they can include:

  • Loss of a menstrual period
  • Heart failure
  • Obesity
  • Anemia
  • Neurological problems
  • Thyroid irregularities
  • Electrolyte imbalance in the body
  • Fertility issues
  • Loss of bone density

Eating Disorder FAQ

Now that you know many of the symptoms of an eating disorder, it's important to identify if you have one. It may surprise you to know that not everyone who has an eating disorder is aware of it. You may know that you obsess over food, but you never thought of it as a diagnosable condition.

If you're wondering whether or not you have an eating disorder, it's helpful to answer some questions. The following are questions that focus on your eating habits and body image thoughts. Answer them as honestly as you can.

  • Do you frequently eat in private so that others won't know how much you eat?
  • Do you think of certain foods as good, and other foods as bad?
  • Do you often limit how much food you eat during the day?
  • Do you find yourself constantly thinking about your weight or what you look like?
  • Do you frequently think about food?
  • Do you tend to be someone who "grazes" on food all day long?
  • Do you think that you are fat or obese?
  • Do you feel shame about what you look like?
  • Have you ever vomited after eating?
  • Have you ever taken laxatives after eating?
  • If your weight goes up, does that affect how you feel that day?
  • Do you often eat for the purpose of helping yourself feel better?
  • Do you frequently try different weight loss methods, hoping one of them will work for you?
  • If you overindulge, do you ever starve yourself afterwards as a form of punishment?
  • Does eating give you comfort?
  • Does food make you feel out of control?
  • Do you participate in certain rituals when it comes to eating food?
  • Do you weigh yourself frequently throughout the day?

If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you may have an eating disorder. This might come as a shock to you. Maybe you were just doing what your friends do. Perhaps you were just trying to stick to a diet plan. Sometimes there can be a fine line between dieting and eating disorders. It seems as though you may have crossed that line.

Today, researchers are still working hard to find out what exactly causes people to develop eating disorders. There seems to be no one, exact factor. Generally, they are caused by a number of different factors that involve environmental, psychological and biological abnormalities.

The environmental factors may include:

  • Living with a dysfunctional family
  • Having a career that requires or promotes physical fitness
  • Being a victim of a childhood trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse
  • Being involved in sports that require physical fitness
  • Peer pressure from friends and family members
  • Any stressful life change

Some of the psychological factors include:

  • Having a negative body image
  • Having poor self-esteem
  • Suffering from depression
  • Struggling with addictions
  • Being diagnosed with anxiety

Some of the biological factors include:

  • Having a family history of eating disorders
  • Having certain medical problems
  • Having unregulated hormone functions
  • Being diagnosed with nutritional deficiencies
  • The inability to lose weight, even on structured diet programs

If you're struggling with any of the above, your risks of developing an eating disorder increase.

It is important for you to know that if you do have an eating disorder, this does not indicate that you are weak. Most people find that it takes a combination of several of the above to result in an eating disorder. The fact that you have one isn't something you could have avoided. The focus right now should be on getting the proper treatment so that you can recover.

Eating disorders are very complex conditions. Because of this, it's important to receive specialized treatment. Treatment plans should be personalized in order to meet the needs of each, individual patient.

There are a number of different ways that eating disorders are treated. Most practitioners use a combination of techniques to yield better results. These methods include:

  • Medical Care: Someone with an eating disorder is likely to be suffering with a number of health problems. These take absolute priority as a part of the treatment plan. Reaching and maintaining good health will form a firm foundation for recovery throughout the process.
  • Meeting with a Nutritionist: Eating disorder patients may resist meeting with a nutritionist, at least at first. However, this is such an important step. A nutritionist will help to create a meal plan that will restore health and lead to weight stabilization. There are so many things to learn about the benefits of normal eating. Nutrition therapy is an important part of that.
  • Individual Therapy: Working with a therapist in a one-on-one setting is vital for recovery. Each eating disorder is different, just as patients are all different. Therapists use different forms of psychotherapy, based on what patients need.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy is very beneficial for those with eating disorders. It helps to know that you're not alone. Participants can share about their concerns and experiences and get feedback from the group.
  • Medication Therapy: A number of different medications are used to help eating disorder patients. These can be particularly helpful during the beginning stages of treatment when anxiety is high.

There are several different medications that are frequently used to treat eating disorders. These include:

  • Prozac
  • Zyprexa
  • Topamax
  • Zoloft
  • Meridia

These medications are very useful in helping with the anxiety that can go along with eating disorders. Also, some of them have the side effect of weight gain, which is beneficial. Meridia is usually used in patients who need to lose weight. This makes it an appropriate choice for those with binge eating disorder.

One potential problem is that these drugs can lead to addiction in some cases. While they might not be physically addicting, they can lead to psychological addictions. Patients using them should take care to not misuse them in any way. Taking them exactly as prescribed will be the key to avoiding addiction.

Most people with eating disorders and addictions have the eating disorders first. Their conditions may go undiagnosed for years. Because eating disorders cause anxiety, these individuals are often looking for ways to relieve that.

Drugs or alcohol do serve a purpose here, even if it isn't a good one. Eating disorder sufferers will look to them as easy ways to get relief for their symptoms. For many of them, they offer a way to escape from how they feel.

It's definitely easy to see how there can be such a strong connection between eating disorders and addiction.

People with eating disorders are often eager to reduce their symptoms of anxiety. For them, alcohol is often an easy choice. It's legal to purchase it if you're old enough, and it's socially acceptable. Marijuana also has anxiety reducing qualities. In many states, it's even possible to get a prescription for it for anxiety. This makes it the perfect choice for people with eating disorders.

Finally, prescription drugs often have anxiety reducing qualities to them as well.

The importance of treating both eating disorders and addictions at the same time cannot be stressed enough. So many people go to treatment for their addictions, but they fail to address the reasons behind them. That is why integrative addiction treatment was formed.

This method is also known as dual diagnosis treatment. It works by combining treatment for both co-occurring disorders. This way, the root cause of the addiction is adequately addressed. Patients benefit because they have a detailed treatment plan created specifically for them. This treatment plan outlines all of their needs.

Integrative addiction treatment may involve drug and alcohol detox as the first step in recovery. It is so important to manage the withdrawal symptoms that can lead to a relapse. Once that is completed, therapy will begin. This will involve meeting with a therapist, group therapy, and other methods.

Unless patients receive treatment for their co-occurring disorders, the likelihood of recovering from them is very small.

Northpoint Washington Offers Help for Those with Addictions and Eating Disorders

If you are suffering from an eating disorder and an addiction, you are not alone. There are so many people in the world who are just like you. These are individuals who may have hit rock bottom several times. They felt like nothing they tried to change would make any difference. They couldn't get past the number on the scale or the person in the mirror. These two factors alone drove them to use as a way of escape.

Or, it's possible that the opposite was true. They began with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, which led to an eating disorder. Regardless of what situation you identify with more, the most important thing you can do is to get help.

Integrative addiction treatment is the solution you have been looking for. It is very difficult to recover from these co-occurring disorders. However, it is not impossible. So many people have been able to achieve their recovery goals, and you can do the same.

At Northpoint Washington, our staff members have extensive experience treating these conditions. When you choose to work with us, you'll be at ease throughout the entire process. For the first time in years, you'll be able to get real, lasting relief from your symptoms. We promise you that we'll be with you every step of the way.

Are you eager to get started with recovering from your eating disorder and addiction? Let us help you get on the right track. Please contact us today.

Northpoint Washington: Opening April 2019

Our facilities currently open for services:

Ashwood Recovery at Northpoint

Outpatient drug and alcohol rehab and addiction counseling located in Boise, Idaho.

Northpoint Recovery

Our National Medical Detox and Inpatient Addiction Facility.

The Evergreen at Northpoint

Outpatient drug and alcohol rehab and addiction counseling located in Washington State.