Substance abuse and eating disorders go hand in hand. Research suggests that nearly 50 percent of individuals with an eating disorder are also abusing drugs or alcohol, a rate that is five times higher than the general population. Researchers aren’t exactly sure how or why both problems develop, but it’s believed to be a mix of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors.
It’s also not clear what comes first: the addiction or the eating disorder. In some individuals, the substance abuse causes appetite suppression that leads to significant weight loss and triggers the eating disorder. In other cases, the eating disorder is present and the individual uses substances to help them cope. In either case, the behaviors are counterproductive and cause both conditions to worsen. Early intervention and nutrition education for recovering addicts is essential.
Let’s take a look at some interesting eating disorder statistics that you probably never knew about.
Eye-Opening Stats About Eating Disorders
- Up to 30 million people in the US suffer from an eating disorder. Eating disorders include bulimia, anorexia and binge eating. These numbers include both men and women of all ages.
- Eating disorders may have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. The most common causes of death include organ failure, heart failure, malnutrition or suicide. However, statistics are misleading because the complications of death are usually reported rather than the eating disorder. This is why numbers vary considerably according to different studies and sources.
- Nearly 50 percent of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression. Just as eating disorders and substance abuse have a strong link, so do eating disorders and mental illness. For the best chances of recovery, both conditions need to be diagnosed and treated.
- Sadly, only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders get the treatment they need. And, for those who do receive treatment, only 35 percent of them get professional help from a specialized treatment center.
- Women are much more likely than men to develop an eating disorder. Only 5 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are male. However, these statistics may be misleading because men are less likely to seek treatment than women because of the perception that eating disorders are “women’s diseases.”
With the strong link between eating disorders, mental illness and substance abuse, it’s most effective for individuals to receive holistic treatment that addresses all aspects of their being – mind, body and spirit. When this philosophy is applied along with medical treatment for the underlying conditions, true healing and recovery can be reached.
*Please note that The River Source treats substance abuse as a primary diagnosis. If you believe that you or a loved one has an eating disorder, please seek prompt medical attention by a qualified counselor in eating disorders.
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