Powerless Over Food

My Bariatric Life Health Guide
  • Food Addiction and Bulimia, a Dual Disorder

    If a person suffers from an addictive disease and an unrelated disorder such as anxiety, this person can now count themselves among those who have a dual disorder. A dual disorder is not to be confused with a cross addiction where a person is dependent on two or more psychoactive substances.

    People who are dependent on a psychoactive substance are no more likely than any person in the general population to have a mental illness.

    The psychological illness of bulimia is often coupled with an addiction to food, drugs, or alcohol, resulting in a dual disorder or, "double trouble," as it is referred to in Twelve-Step circles.     

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    Bulimia Nervosa

    Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that usually effects young women. Eighty-five to ninety percent of those who have the disorder are female, with the onset usually beginning at around twenty years old. Although, there is no age restriction regarding the root.

    Sufferers endure cycles of binging and purging during which they overeat during a short time span and then force the food out of their bodies. Binging often involves eating excessive amounts of foods in a single sitting that are rich in calories, fat, and sugar. Purging is taking laxatives or vomiting directly after eating to get rid of the food that has been ingested. 

    Purging behavior gives the individual a sense of control, and the cycle of binging and purging can produce a "high." Causes of the disorder include cultural expectations, stressful events, low self-esteem, and depression or anxiety.    

    Bulimia and Food Addiction

    One of the addictions that can accompany bulimia is an addiction to food.   

    An indicator that the bulimic is addicted to food is if he/she is obsessing about or bingeing on foods that are recognized as addicitive prior to purging. Foods that are commonly categorized as addictive are sugar, flour, and other refined carbohydrates that swiftly metabolize into simple sugars. Other foods that are cited as addictive are chocolate, wheat, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine. Another symptom of food addiction is symptoms of detoxification when certain binge foods are eliminated.

    Bulimia and Drug or Alcohol Addiction

    It is not unusual for bulimics to be addicted to drugs or alcohol. Studies have shown that as many as one-half of people with eating disorders abuse alcohol or drugs, compared to 9% of the general population. In addition, 35% of alcoholics or illicit drug users have some kind of eating disorder compared to 3% of the general population. Both of these groups share risk factors and personality characteristics.

    Bulimics impulsively use drugs or alcohol in an attempt to cope with negative emotions that compel them to seek drugs or alcohol as avenues for relief. They may also use drugs or alcohol as an aid for weight control and wind up addicted to the substances.

    If an individual is suffering from a dual disorder, it is necessary to address both disorders concurrently whereas the elimination of one does not eliminate of the other.   


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Published On: December 20, 2014