Eating disorders are classified as addictive behaviors that are linked to underlying mental health conditions. Anorexia nervosa is a severe psychiatric disorder characterized by unrelenting self-starvation and life-threatening weight loss. According to the American Psychiatric Association, (2000), the diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa include a failure to maintain minimal body weight, fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, disturbances in perception of shape or weight, and amenorrhea, which is the absence of menstruation.
How does anorexia nervosa relate to addiction?
Addictive behavior, such as anorexia nervosa, manifests itself in a preoccupation with food and eating, withdrawal symptoms, a continuation of disturbed eating behavior in spite of negative consequences, loss of control, and frequent relapse. The US National Library of Medicine, NIH, states, “The relentlessness with which individuals with anorexia nervosa pursue starvation despite profound negative physical, emotional, and social consequences is similar to the maladaptive cycle seen in individuals with addiction.”
Eating disorders display similar characteristics of a drug or alcohol addiction. These addictive behaviors are self-destructive, harmful, and deadly. When a person is struggling with an eating disorder, he or she loses control and the ability to stop. Eating disorders are related to some of the psychological effects of starvation, which appear to be similar to symptoms of addiction. Eating disorders and addiction develop from stressful situations as a way to cope. Eating disorders and addiction are chronic diseases and require treatment for success in recovery.
Teen girls are very susceptible to developing an eating disorder due to our culture’s idolization of being thin. This perpetuates through the adolescent community along with the peer pressure and popularity of using drugs and alcohol. People who suffer from anorexia avoid food because of their distorted perception of how they look. A person with anorexia literally starves his or her body. The lack of food causes extreme weight loss, hair loss, and contributes to organ failure and death.
The link between mental health and anorexia nervosa
The US National Library of Medicine, NIH, explains, “Co-morbid psychiatric disorders, especially affective disorders, anxiety disorders, substance-related disorders, and personality disorders, are often found in eating-disordered patients.” Food can also become a problem for many people who experienced past trauma. Eating disorders come in many forms such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. In any form, an eating disorder can cause physical disfiguration, impairment, obesity, heart failure and death.
Treatment for mental health and addictive behavior
While there is no cure for addiction, treatment is available. If you or a loved one is struggling with anorexia or addiction, you are not alone. Do not wait to get help. Eating disorders and addiction are physically and mentally harmful and deadly. Treatment will help you take back control of your life, restore your health, and renew your spirit. Get help today.
The Fort Worth Recovery umbrella covers medically supervised detox, as well as residential programs for men and women alike. Our programs are abstinence-based and combine a 12-step approach with a strong mental health component, integrating cutting-edge techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), Somatic Experiencing, and Motivational Interviewing. For more information or to start your healing journey, please fill out a contact request form and one of our recovery experts will connect with you shortly.