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Like other disorders and addictions, eating disorders and alcoholism may serve as a coping mechanism for those who have experienced trauma and have underlying feelings of fear, depression, anxiety, and stress or tension.

Alcoholism is a serious condition that is more prevalent than people realize. Alcoholism and eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia are frequently interrelated.

The correlation between alcoholism and eating disorders along with other substance or drugs abuse is well-established:

Nearly 50% of individuals with an eating disorder also abuse drugs and/or alcohol.

25% of those seeking treatment for eating disorders also fulfill the criteria for substance addiction problems, according to research.

Substance addiction is five times more prevalent among individuals suffering from eating disorders compared to the general population.

Alcohol, drugs, and eating disorder habits may assist individuals in numbing their difficulties, discomfort, and worry, but at a high price.

Long-term restriction of critical nutrients (as a result of eating disorders) combined with excessive alcohol use may cause irreparable harm to vital organs,  occasionally even death

eating disorder and alcoholism

There is a close relationship between alcohol use and eating disorders. Yet, this isn’t always the case, particularly in those with dual diagnoses.

According to research, alcohol use disorders and eating disorders typically co-occur, as alcohol is frequently used for emotional control or as part of impulsive behavior in individuals with unhealthy eating conditions. The American Psychiatric Association explicitly recognizes four categories of eating disorders: bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and eating disorders not otherwise specified. Co-occurrence patterns differ based on these subtypes.

Eating disorders typically manifest throughout adolescence or early adulthood, however, they can also manifest much later in adult life. People with alcohol use disorders and eating disorders frequently share the same self-destructive personality type, characterized by neurotic, perfectionist tendencies and dramatic, impulsive dispositions.

These characteristics show that people with eating disorders frequently turn to alcohol use/abuse as a means of coping with the day-to-day challenges and stress resulting from their eating disorders. Eating disorders are frequently classified as addictive disorders, and the vast majority of individuals with an eating disorder have an addiction problem. Alcohol consumption and eating problems are more likely to co-occur in individuals with addictive personalities.

According to research, people with eating disorders who also use drugs have worse symptoms and poor outcomes than people with eating disorders who do not use drugs. These people also have longer recovery times, worse functional outcomes, and greater relapse rates.

Research studies show that:

Some individuals use alcohol to manage their eating disorder (for instance, using drugs and alcohol as a replacement for eating disorder behaviors, as a means of managing the negative consequences of those activities, or as a means of avoiding or numbing distress that results from having an eating disorder)

People with eating problems and alcoholism co-occurring are more prone to develop and show impulsivity.

People with binge eating disorders are more inclined than those with other eating disorders to drink more alcohol in one session and to do so more frequently.

Negative feelings, peer pressure, and physical pain or temptation all increase the likelihood of binge drinking and eating.

The quantity of alcohol use and the negative effects of drinking are correlated with bingeing behaviors, which are evident in a number of eating disorders.

People with bulimia nervosa are twice as prone as those with other eating disorders to abuse alcohol.

Eating disorders are abnormalities in eating and activity patterns brought on by upsetting and disturbing emotions and thoughts. Eating disorders can have detrimental effects on physical, mental, and social health.

There are psychological, biological, and societal risk factors. Eating disorders are associated with reduced levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in the brain. In addition to drug use disorders, eating disorders can co-occur with mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders and major depressive disorder. 

No matter what type of eating disorder is being talked about, the risk factors are the same. Typical risk factors include:

  • Hearing criticisms regarding your physical appearance, particularly your weight, from friends, family, and healthcare specialists.
  • Being overweight as a child and adolescent
  • Getting a mood disorder diagnosis
  • Having an emphasis on perfectionism, particularly if it was fostered by your social or family circle as a child, can be detrimental.
  • Manifesting impulsivity
  • Enduring severe suffering

Although eating disorders are commonly thought to affect only girls, adolescents, and women, anyone can develop these disorders. Almost 18 percent of non-binary individuals and transgender have engaged in eating disorder behaviors in the past year, as opposed to 1.8 percent of cisgender women and 0.2 percent of cisgender men, according to research (men and women who identify with the same gender as assigned to them at birth). 

Eating disorders are also more common among gay, bisexual, lesbian, and other non-heterosexual individuals than those among heterosexual cisgender men and women.

Life-threatening physical damage is caused by eating disorders. An individual suffering from an eating disorder may exhibit the following:

  • Thyroid illness
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Loss of hair or alopecia  
  • Respiratory failure
  • Hepatitis
  • Brain atrophy or shrinkage
  • Heart conditions like Mitral valve prolapse

Alcohol consumption disorder can harm any part of the body and every aspect of a person’s life. Among the possible adverse effects of excessive alcohol consumption are:

  • Lisping speech
  • Malnutrition
  • Sexual abnormalities
  • Blackouts
  • Hallucinations
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Financial troubles
  • Professional problems

Alcohol and eating disorders can cause long-term damage to one’s health. The most prevalent alcohol-related health concerns include:

  • Infectious illnesses
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Neuropsychiatric
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Damage to the liver, which may result in cirrhosis
  • Pancreatic diseases
  • Accidental and intentional harm

The combination of alcohol consumption and eating disorders increases the likelihood of developing nutrition-related health problems, such as problems with Vitamin B1 deficiency (thiamine).

Anorexia nervosa is described by a refusal or unwillingness to maintain normal healthy body weight for age and height, an overwhelming fear of gaining weight, and malnutrition. Anorexia is subdivided into two subtypes: the restricting type, which is characterized by excessive dieting, and the purging/binge eating type, which is marked by bouts of self-induced binge eating and/or purging via vomiting or diuretics. 

People with anorexia have a drastically distorted view of themselves, especially their body image in which they perceive themselves to be overweight while being abnormally thin, and they frequently ignore the severity of their unhealthy weight. Anorexia affects individuals of various ages, with the average age of onset ranging from 14 to 18 years old. The illness is prevalent among females and has a high relapse rate. In extreme circumstances, medical issues and even death might result from malnutrition.

Anorexia Nervosa: Signs and Symptoms to Look For

  • Significant weight reduction
  • Obsession with weight, calories, food, and fat grams, as well as dieting
  • Dizziness
  • Constant references to being “fat” or overweight even with significant weight loss.
  • Has a strong desire for domination or control
  • Constant attempts to avoid mealtimes or social engagements involving eating
  • Fainting
  • Separating oneself from routine friends and activities
  • Isolation and obscurity

Although anorexia has a lower proportion of co-occurring substance addiction than binge eating disorder and bulimia. The majority of individuals with both alcoholism and anorexia will use alcohol to control their appetites. Consuming alcohol on an empty stomach increases the likelihood of alcohol poisoning, alcohol-related injury, and memory loss.

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder marked by recurring episodes of binge eating (consumption of huge quantities of food in a short period of time accompanied by a feeling of lack of control) followed by purging. People with bulimia routinely employ severe techniques of weight control to compensate for binge eating, such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Abuse of laxatives, appetite suppressants, or diuretics
  • Extreme diets or fasting
  • Strenuous exercise

In order to be diagnosed with bulimia nervosa, a person must have engaged in bingeing and inappropriate purging at least twice per week over the course of three months. Bulimic and alcoholic individuals usually binge on both food and drink before purging. In binge drinking, the consumer consumes excessive quantities of alcohol in a short period of time. Bulimic adolescents who concurrently abuse alcohol are more likely to engage in high-risk activities such as theft, attempted suicide, and unsafe sex.

Formally classified as a type of eating disorder not otherwise classified until recent times, binge eating disorder is characterized by recurring episodes of binge eating without the corrective or compensatory weight control strategies associated with bulimia nervosa.

People who binge eat regularly face a lack of control when binging, followed by tremendous guilt or shame after a binge. To be labeled with a binge eating disorder, a person must engage in binge eating an average of twice per week for six months.

In contrast to bulimia and anorexia binge eating disorder is not rare among males and is most common among adults. Binge eating disorder increases the risk for obesity and the general medical issues associated with being overweight. People with binge eating disorder frequently binge on both food and alcohol, but unlike those with bulimia, they do not purge the alcohol afterward.

Due to the fact that many individuals with binge eating disorder are obese, they must consume greater quantities of alcohol to experience its effects, hence raising alcohol-related health hazards such as cirrhosis and other liver disorders.

“Drunkorexia” is a slang term for the unhealthy practice of reducing a person’s food to almost nothing such that he or she can engage in binge drinking without gaining weight. Drunkorexics limit themselves to calories through hunger in order to make up for the calories they consume through alcohol.

Due to the fact that alcohol has no nutritive benefit, individuals with this condition can rapidly become malnourished in addition to experiencing all of the physical and social hazards associated with alcoholism.

Drunkorexia is most common among college-aged women, although men and older individuals of both sexes have been reported to develop the condition. Numerous academics relate this group to the cultural prominence of alcohol consumption, peer pressure, and the dread of attaining the “freshman 15” that college-aged women face.

In the beginning, it may not be obvious that someone is dealing with drunkorexia because they do not initially lose a significant amount of weight; nevertheless, when drunkorexia is exercised for long periods of time, it can become a major problem.

Alcohol use disorders and eating disorders frequently coexist with other psychological conditions. Some controlled research has demonstrated that a portion of the apparent co-occurrence of eating disorders and substance use disorders is due to other psychiatric illnesses.

According to research, patients with both conditions may have problems with impulse control, which is also strongly associated with personality disorders including Borderline Personality Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. As catalysts for substance use, co-occurring eating, and psychiatric problems, it is believed that child abuse, sexual abuse, and family dysfunction are all common variables.

This category includes eating disorders that do not meet the diagnostic criteria for other eating disorders but are nevertheless clinical eating disorders.

Examples include:

  • Atypical anorexia nervosa
  • Low frequency or restricted binge eating disorders or bulimia
  • Purging disorder
  • Night eating syndrome

OSFED can manifest multiple behavioral, physical, and emotional symptoms. In addition to any or all of the symptoms of eating disorders, the following may also be present:

  • Storing or hiding food
  • Extreme anxiety about eating in public
  • Consuming excessive quantities of water or other liquids as a substitute for food is unhealthy.
  • Continuous use of mint gums or mouthwash
  • Fainting
  • Frequent illness owing to the influence of eating disorder practices on the immune system.

Eating disorders are not always accompanied by a professional diagnosis. Numerous individuals suffer from one or more unhealthy or disordered eating behaviors that do not meet the diagnostic criteria for OSFED or other eating disorders. Nonetheless, all disordered eating practices that co-occur with a substance use disorder might have negative health consequences.

  1. Alcohol and eating disorders. Alcohol Rehab Guide. Available at:
  2. Eating disorders and alcoholism. Eating Recovery Center. Available at:
  3. Eating disorders and alcoholism. Alcoholics Anonymous. Available at:
  4. The relationship between alcohol use and eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia). The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab. Available at:


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