What Causes Eating Disorders and Drug Abuse

Eating disorders occur alongside problems with drug abuse in many individuals. Approximately 50 percent of those who struggle with an eating disorder experience some form of drug abuse as well, according to the National Institutes of Health. When people suffer from both an eating disorder and a drug abuse problem, then she has a Dual Diagnosis. Drug abuse problems can develop before, during or after the onset of an eating disorder.

Each person’s situation is unique, so no specific circumstances lead to eating disorders and drug abuse. However, some factors commonly contribute to these disorders, including the following examples:

  • Cultural and social pressures. Western culture portrays certain standards of beauty in the media. People who do not have the physical attributes that are considered socially and culturally pleasing may eventually develop an eating disorder as they attempt to achieve an unattainable standard for their physical appearance.
  • Physical or sexual abuse. In some cases, abuse can induce a low self-esteem that leads to self-destructive behavior, such as disordered eating. Although people do not deserve abuse, survivors often believe that they somehow deserve their unfortunate circumstances. For survivors of abuse, disordered eating can become a physical way to process their emotional pain, as well as a way to gain a sense of control over their lives.
  • Troubled relationships. Individuals with eating disorders may have troubled relationships with people that have significant roles in their lives. Troubled relationships with parents, siblings or caregivers can contribute to an eating disorder by causing emotional pain or feelings of helplessness.

The following factors may contribute to drug abuse in people that have or who are susceptible to eating disorders:

  • Environment. Family dysfunction, stressful situations and other environmental circumstances can play a significant role in the initial decision to abuse drugs.
  • Peer pressure. Especially during the adolescent years, peer pressure can be a strong contributing factor to substance abuse. For people that long to feel accepted and like a part of a group, peer pressure to abuse drugs can become too difficult to resist.
  • Depression. People suffering from depression experience overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness. They may be tempted to numb their emotional pain with drug abuse.

Co-occurring eating disorders and drug abuse problems are best addressed with integrated treatment. Mental health facilities may not be able to address the issues surrounding substance abuse, while addiction treatment will not be able to help people overcome deeply rooted psychological issues. However, integrated treatment programs allow patients to receive simultaneous, around the clock care for both eating disorders and substance abuse.

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If you or someone you know suffers from an eating disorder and drug abuse at the same time, know that we can help. Call our toll-free helpline now to reach one of our admissions coordinators about information regarding treatment. Our staff are available 24 hours a day to help you get on the road to recovery, so call now to begin treatment as soon as possible.

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