Imagine for a moment what life might be like for someone with an eating disorder in addition to a drug or alcohol addiction. No doubt, those who suffer from eating disorders and addiction struggle to find the hope and help that they need.

Thankfully, however, we are here to offer treatment and support at Coastal Detox. As a detox facility, we certainly have an interest in the addiction side of that picture. If there is a connection between the individual’s eating disorder and addiction, that is also going to pique our interest.

What Are Co-Occurring Disorders?

Within the addiction treatment community, we refer to the combination of an eating disorder and substance abuse as co-occurring disorders. When someone comes to our facility for help with their withdrawal symptoms, we need to know what else the individual is experiencing. If an eating disorder or any other mental or emotional disorder is present, we’ll need to know. After all, it will and should affect how we approach detox treatment for that individual,

As part of this discussion, we are going to focus on what eating disorders are and how they affect the victims. We will also discuss how the existence of an eating disorder will dictate how we implement a detox program.

About Eating Disorders

No one should underestimate the serious nature of an eating disorder. Under the best of circumstances, the victim will likely suffer health issues. Under the worst of circumstances, eating disorders can cause death.

If a person has an eating disorder, it means that he or she has somewhat of an unhealthy relationship with food. The source of eating disorders is usually some kind of emotional illness that drives them to have a distorted view of themselves. Individuals may use food or the lack thereof as a way to punish themselves for how they look and feel.

To help you understand the differences between and nuances of these three eating disorders, it’s important to know more about their signs and symptoms. Learning more about these disorders can also help you to identify them should they occur in your life or the life of someone you know.

Anorexia Nervosa

People with anorexia nervosa will restrict their intake of food because they see themselves are overweight regardless of reality. Unfortunately, most anorexia victims are dangerously underweight, often suffering from malnutrition. Starvation is the leading cause of death that comes as a result of a mental/emotional disorder. Some of the most common sign and effects of anorexia include the following:

  • Loss of bones mass
  • Problems with constipation
  • Mild anemia and muscle deterioration
  • Refusal to eat normal amounts of food

  • Low respiratory and circulatory function
  • Brittle hair and nails due to lack of nutrients in the body
  • Distorted body image that usually comes from low to no self-esteem

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a cyclical eating disorder. Those who suffer from this disorder usually eat large amounts of food to satisfy their hunger. But, they typically eliminate the food from their systems after consuming it. The methods of elimination can include the use of laxatives, forced vomiting (purging), excessive exercising to burn calories, and intermittent fasting. Here are the most common signs, symptoms, and effects of bulimia:

  • Chronic gastrointestinal problems
  • Swollen salivary glands around the neck area
  • Inflamed throat due to acid burns from vomiting
  • Disappearing to purge directly after eating a meal

  • Heart attacks and strokes due to Electrolyte imbalance
  • Severe dehydration due to lack of fluid intake during the day
  • Malnutrition due to the lack of vitamins and minerals in the body

Binge Eating Disorder 

Those who suffer from binge eating disorder typically have an uncontrollable urge to eat large amounts of food per meal. They can’t control their desire to keep eating, which leaves them feeling disgusted by their lack of self-control. Let’s look at the signs of a binge eating disorder:

  • Tendency to consume food quickly
  • Feelings of shame due to overeating
  • Eating well past the feeling of being satisfied
  • Intermittent dieting that never seems to stop weight gain

  • Eating for the sake of eating even when not hungry
  • Often eats in isolation to avoid detection by others
  • Eating large amounts of food within a specific time-frame

Eating Disorders and Addiction: A Dangerous Connection

Sadly, many people who suffer from addiction also deal with the effects of a mental health disorder or an emotional disorder. So it is not uncommon to find people struggling with co-occurring disorders such as eating disorders and addiction. Substance use disorders often develop in the lives of those who are already suffering from mental illnesses. But, in many cases, addiction may come first.

The Impact of Eating Disorders

Often, people who suffer from eating disorders experience an intense and unbareable sense of guilt or shame. Their family members and friends may not be able to fully understand their struggles. In fact, those who suffer from eating disorders may not fully understand their situation. The frustration, misunderstanding, guilt, and shame can all cause people to feel overwhelmed. This can certainly lead to substance abuse. Individuals may turn to alcohol or drug us in order to escape from the effects of mental health disorders. 

When a drug addiction treatment specialists can find a direct link between an emotional disorder and addiction, they call it co-occurring disorders. Eating disorders and addiction can form a very dangerous condition, one that can cause serious mental and physical health issues. When this happens to someone, they typically need a special kind of addiction treatment. The industry calls these specialized kind of treatment “dual diagnosis treatment.”

Dual diagnosis treatment involves the treatment of co-occurring disorders simultaneously. The reason it needs to be simultaneous treatment is because of the connection between the eating disorder and substance abuse. Failure to treat co-occurring disorders at the same time often fails because the untreated condition will interfere with the treatment process.

Remember, they are co-occurring disorders because one is causing the other. Many times, the eating disorder leads to addiction because people abuse substances as a coping mechanism. It’s also possible for an addiction to initiate an eating disorder in response to guilt over their addiction. Either way, both disorders need treatment at the same time so the client has a pathway to a full recovery from their addiction.

The Addiction Treatment Detox Process When an Eating Disorder Exists 

At our detox facility, we offer medical detox programs. We do this to make sure clients can get through withdrawal with as little pain and discomfort as possible. Our medical staff manages these programs by monitoring a client’s detox progress and intervening with relief medications when necessary.

As a dedicated detox facility, we don’t get heavily involved in the therapeutic side of the treatment equation. We specialize in helping clients deal with their withdrawal symptoms before heading into therapy. With that said, the way we design a detox program would definitely be affected by the existence of an eating disorder. We have to be careful about how we proceed because the client’s physical condition might not be optimum.

Withdrawal Symptoms and the Importance of Professional Detox

When someone’s body becomes dependent on drugs or alcohol, their body needs the substance of choice for normal function. If the drug user denies their body the drugs/alcohol it needs, the body will revolt by way of withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms will almost always occur with the cessation of using the substance in question.

The problem with withdrawal symptoms is they can be very dangerous. They can cause all kinds of physical and mental health issues, especially if the user’s addiction is severe. As a point of reference, here’s a list of withdrawal symptoms we associate with alcoholism:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion and disorientation

  • Hallucinations and delirium tremens
  • High blood pressure and a rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty with concentration and body motor control

Those who are working to recover from addiction should seek professional help. This will enable them to move toward recovery in a much safer and effective way. Here at Coastal Detox, we offer detoxification services that can assist individuals who are experiencing withdrawal. Through out services, clients can find the peace and guidance they need as they navigate this new chapter in their lives.

Detox Programs for People With Eating Disorders

When the individual has an eating disorder, one can assume the person’s body is not functioning as it should. Here at Coastal Detox, we are careful about the drugs we might prescribe for pain or sleeping issues. We consider the fact that our client’s body might not metabolize medical detox prescription drugs as we might expect. 

Another thing we focus on when designing a detox program for someone with an eating disorder is their nutrition. Under normal circumstances, we put some focus on nutrition because it helps the body cope with withdrawal. When an eating disorder exists, the nutrition part of the detox program moves to the forefront. We need to pump the client’s body full of vitamins and minerals to jumpstart the recovery process.

Our team will likely know and understand that a client in this position is headed for dual diagnosis treatment. It’s our job to help get them physically and mentally prepared for the therapy portion of treatment. We can move towards that goal by starting to deal with the client’s eating issues during their detox treatment.

More About Detox at Our Facility

The focus on nutrition will include making sure the client is getting the nutrients they need to start restoring their body to normal. We also want to help educate them about sources of good nutrition so that they understand that we understand their dire situation. If appropriate, we might even start a little bit of light counseling, but we typically leave the heavy lifting for licensed therapists.

Once we successfully get a client past their withdrawal, we can help them find a rehab center that can treat eating disorders and addiction. If you are suffering from co-occurring disorders, including an eating disorder, you need to get help. We are here to help you get through the detox process as safely as possible. While under our care, we can take steps to start helping you prepare for dual-diagnosis therapy.

If you need more information about our services, please contact one of our staff members as soon as possible. At the end of the day, we want you to start feeling better about your life. So please allow us to assist you in sailing through recovery!