Exploring the Connection Between Eating Disorders and Alcohol Use

The relationship between eating disorders and alcohol use continues to increase throughout our society. Often, alcohol abuse is utilized as an unhealthy response to regulate emotions and cope with stressors, much like eating disorders. Unfortunately, research continues to show that women who suffer from Anorexia tend to also engage in binge-drinking behaviors as a way to suppress appetite, while others may engage in alcohol use as a method to alleviate anxiety before eating or to manage the guilt after eating. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has found that alcohol abuse and eating disorders frequently co-occur with one another, making treatment for both conditions vital to recovery.

According to the World Health Organization, alcohol contributes to 3 million deaths each year across the globe and is responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of disease. In taking a closer look at these statistics, it is unfortunate that a study by the National Eating Disorder Association found that 22% of those hospitalized with complications as a result of an eating disorder also present with a co-occurring substance use disorder. Let’s dive into the content a little deeper and take a look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has currently impacted alcohol use and eating disorder co-occurrences.  

What is “drunkorexia”?

“Drunkorexia”, a term introduced around 2010, is classified as a time in which someone intentionally starves themselves to offset their calorie intake from alcohol use. This term also includes drinking excessively to make oneself vomit and purging any consumed foods with alcohol. Unfortunately, “Drunkorexia” tends to be more commonly found in females to engage in calorie restriction to lose weight. Additionally, “Drunkorexia” is often found across college campuses, where each year over 1,800 students die from alcohol-related accidents. According to the National Institute of Health, up to one-third of students say they reduce their calorie intake before drinking to compensate for the calories in alcohol. 

How has COVID-19 increased alcohol use?

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected how individuals function on a day-to-day basis. Recent research has shown that people are drinking more alcohol in excess than ever before since the beginning of the pandemic. At the beginning of May 2020, total alcohol sales in the United States were up by 32% compared to the previous year. The increase has prompted the World Health Organization and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to issue communications warning people to avoid excessive drinking. For those suffering from an eating disorder, alcohol has become a quick coping mechanism for increased anxiety, depression, and isolation in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic.  

What is the level of danger when combining alcohol with eating disorders?

 From a biological perspective, alcohol combined with an empty stomach greatly increases the risk of alcohol poisoning, memory loss, and alcohol-related injuries. For women suffering from binge eating disorder, many will frequently binge both alcohol and food and then utilizing methods of purging to rid the body of unwanted calories. Research has shown that individuals suffering from eating disorders who also engage in alcohol abuse, often engage in high-risk behaviors, such as self-harm, illicit drug use, sexual promiscuity, and unhealthy interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, the growing risk of eating disorders and co-occurring alcohol abuse continue to rise and present grave health challenges, including poor heart, kidney, and liver functioning. 

Magnolia Creek is here to help 

 Magnolia Creek offers clinically excellent care for women suffering from eating disorders and a co-occurring substance use disorder. Our comprehensive and strengths-based program incorporates the principles of the 12-Step recovery model. Combining three individual sessions a week, approximately four psychoeducational groups each day, weekly meetings with our Board Certified Psychiatrist, Clinical Licensed Psychologist, and Registered Dietitian women are given evidence-based skills to build their recovery journey. Additionally, we incorporate elements of spirituality and experiential therapies to help women process their feelings through expressive arts and creativity. 

To experience the Magnolia Creek Difference, contact our Admissions team at 866-92-FREEDOM or complete our contact form. Magnolia Creek is here to help you renew, restore, and recover from eating disorders and co-occurring substance use disorders.