Patients who seek treatment of alcohol abuse often struggle with additional mental illnesses that affect their ability to participate in treatment. These illnesses include major depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Among the most difficult co-occurring illnesses to treat though is the combination of alcohol abuse and co-occurring disordered eating. At Santé Center For Healing, we provide an alcohol rehab center program and mental health dual diagnosis treatment to help you overcome these disorders at the same time so you can work towards a better recovery.
Addiction & Co-Occurring Disordered Eating
Research has shown that patients with alcohol abuse also have rates of disordered eating, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Furthermore, patients with both alcohol abuse and disordered eating are at a much higher risk of dying from their illness. This is perhaps not surprising, as malnutrition interferes with the body’s ability to recover from the dangerous effects of alcohol intoxication.
There are many reasons that alcohol abuse and co-occurring disordered eating occur together so frequently, such as:
- Patients with disordered eating often have anxiety as well and may use alcohol as a method to manage their anxiety.
- Alcohol can be used as an appetite suppressant (“drunkorexia”). In other words, alcohol can make it easier for patients who engage in binge/purge behaviors to vomit.
- Patients with a history of PTSD may use a combination of disordered eating behaviors and alcohol abuse to avoid their traumatic memories.
- Both alcoholism and disordered eating are highly heritable. Research has shown the patients with alcohol abuse and binge-eating behaviors are more likely to have mutations in a hormone called FGF21. This mutation has been shown to inhibit alcohol intake and binge-eating in rodents. It is possible that patients with both alcohol abuse and disordered eating inherit a susceptibility for both illnesses from their parents.
Treatment of Both is Critical To Success
While addressing co-occurring illnesses like depression and anxiety through a depression treatment program and an anxiety treatment program is important in the treatment of alcohol abuse, it is absolutely essential to do so when a patient has co-occurring disordered eating. Many times, a patient enters treatment and stops numbing their emotions with alcohol. Then, they will be tempted to engage in other behaviors to cope with the flood of negative feelings they are experiencing.
For instance, a patient who was using alcohol to avoid nightmares and flashbacks from PTSD may slip back into restriction or binge/purge episodes once they enter treatment at a residential treatment center.
Unfortunately, unless a treatment facility is informed on the care of patients with both illnesses, it is very easy for patients to skip meals or vomit quietly without the staff noticing. Without proper monitoring and containment of both alcohol use and disordered eating behaviors, many patients will end of ‘ping-ponging’ back and forth between drug addiction rehab treatment centers without ever making progress toward recovery.
Contact Santé Center For Healing
At Santé Center for Healing, we understand the importance of treating both substance abuse and underlying mental health issues. Through a dual diagnosis treatment program, you can give yourself the best chance at achieving recovery. Our professional addiction treatment staff will help you along every step of the way. If you need help with substance abuse or a mental health disorder, contact us at 866.238.3154 today to learn how our treatment programs can help you recover.
Michael Lutter MD/PhD is a Physician-Scientist who has researched and treated co-occurring disordered eating since 2006. He founded Precision Psychiatry in 2018 to bring cutting edge treatments to patients. Learn more or schedule an appointment today at Precision-Psychiatry.com