treatment for eating disorders and addictionAddiction is a complex and chronic condition that affects every aspect of a person’s life. Many people who struggle with addiction are also struggling with a mental or behavioral health condition. One co-occurring disorder that is often seen in people with substance use disorder is eating disorders.

Nearly 9% of the United States population, or 28.8 million Americans, have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. More than 10,200 deaths each year are attributed to eating disorders.[1] Unfortunately, many of these individuals also battle drug or alcohol addiction. Likewise, people who abuse or are dependent on alcohol or drugs are thought to be 11 times more likely to struggle with an eating disorder compared to the general population.[2]

Although the relationship between eating disorders and substance use disorders is complex, these co-occurring conditions can be treated simultaneously at a treatment program that specializes in eating disorders and addiction.

 The Relationship Between Eating Disorders and Addiction

According to data reported by the National Institute of Mental Health, 27% of people with anorexia nervosa, 36.8% of people with bulimia nervosa, and 23.3% of people with binge eating disorder also struggle with a co-occurring substance use disorder.[3] Drug and alcohol abuse problems can occur before, during, or after an eating disorder.

There are many reasons for these two conditions co-existing. The first is that eating disorders and substance abuse share many similar risk factors, including:

  • Family history
  • Brain chemistry
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Societal pressures
  • Social isolation
  • Compulsive behaviors

Secondly, some people begin abusing substances to lose weight faster or reduce their appetite. For example, people with eating disorders may abuse meth, cocaine, or other stimulants to reduce their appetite. Others may abuse laxatives, diuretics, emetics, or even alcohol.

On the other hand, many people who struggle with substance abuse develop an eating disorder after becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. People may binge, starve themselves, or go several days without eating while under the influence of intoxicating substances.

What to Look for in a Treatment Program for Eating Disorders and Addiction

Whether substance abuse or an eating disorder came first, it’s important to receive treatment for both conditions. The problem is many eating disorder treatment facilities only treat eating disorders, and some addiction treatment centers do not specialize in the treatment of eating disorders.

Here are three important qualities to look for in a treatment program for eating disorders and addiction:

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Plans

Treatment centers that offer dual diagnosis care are equipped with everything necessary to address co-occurring disorders. Dual diagnosis treatment plans should be custom-tailored to meet each patient’s specific needs. Treatment and therapies should address all aspects of a person’s life that may be affected by their eating disorder and/or substance abuse, including:

  • Medical issues
  • Nutritional needs
  • Mental health problems
  • Behavioral patterns
  • Self-esteem and self-awareness
  • Personal relationships

Dual diagnosis programs will use evidence-based therapy, peer support groups, and medications to help individuals recover.

Nutritional Counseling and Support

Dual diagnosis treatment can help address the behavioral, emotional, and psychological aspects of both eating disorders and substance use disorder, but nutritional counseling is a particularly important part of eating disorder treatment. Nutritional counseling teaches patients how to fuel their bodies in a healthy way while healing their relationship with food. It can also help patients navigate or cope with triggers so they can maintain healthy eating habits in the future.

A Continuum of Care

Co-occurring eating disorders and addiction often require comprehensive treatment and supportive care. Many people begin treatment at a residential facility or at a day treatment program. However, as patients begin to develop healthier patterns and demonstrate an ability to keep themselves healthy, they can be transitioned down to a lower level of care. Reducing the intensity of a program in accordance with a person’s progress in treatment can better prepare them for the real world by providing support in a variety of settings. It can also provide continued support for patients on an outpatient basis as they adjust to dealing with day-to-day life.

In-Network With Your Health Insurance

Cost is a major concern among people seeking treatment for eating disorders and drug or alcohol addiction. Fortunately, dual diagnosis treatment in Massachusetts is covered by insurance, and using health insurance to pay for treatment can significantly reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Once you find a treatment facility that you are interested in, you can call them and verify your insurance with an admissions coordinator.

Find Treatment for Eating Disorders and Addiction in Massachusetts Today

Both eating disorders and substance use disorders are chronic conditions that require long-term treatment. Knowing what to look for in a treatment program can help you ensure you’re making the best decision for yourself or a loved one.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse and an eating disorder, you’ve come to the right place. The team at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment is firmly grounded in the philosophy that life choices and the skills to influence those choices can break the cycle of addiction and return people to a life of purpose and optimal health. Don’t wait any longer. Call now to begin your recovery journey.



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