Wednesday, February 8, 2017

BULIMIA and ADDICTION: Robert Frank Mittiga Recovery Coach

The Relationship Between Bulimia and Addiction

The chaotic nature of Bulimia Nervosa reflects many similarities with drug and alcohol addiction. In fact, Bulimia Nervosa is commonly co-occurring with drug addictions. Many research studies have demonstrated the overlapping behaviours of eating disorders and substance abuse and the similar addictive personality that is often observed in individuals who suffer with both addictions and bulimia.

Studies on Addiction and Substance Abuse have shown that approximately 35 percent of all women who suffer from alcoholism also suffer with an eating disorder. Eating disorder sufferers also have an increased risk of abusing alcohol or illicit drugs, with studies revealing that up to 50 percent of individuals with eating disorders simultaneously struggling with drug and alcohol addictions or even love and sex addictions..

What Are the Factors of This Relationship?

What factors contribute to the similar nature of these psychiatric illnesses? What links these disorders and makes them frequent co-morbid conditions among sufferers?

The following factors may explain the commonalities that are observed in both eating disorders, such as bulimia, and substance abuse and/or addiction:


Eating disorders and other addictions are influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics. Shared genetic influences can certainly result in the correlation that is seen between bulimia and other addictions.

Research has found that approximately 83 percent of the phenotype connection between substance abuse and bulimia nervosa was determined by genetic influences. Genetic factors also influence the expression of a person’s biological make-up, which can account for the development of co-occurring conditions.

For example an individual may have lower levels of neurotransmitters as a result of their genetics, which can be linked to the susceptibility of addictive disorders. The biology and genetics of a person will directly determine if they are vulnerable to developing an eating disorder, drug addiction, or both.


Many similar environmental factors can trigger the development of bulimia or other addictions in genetically predisposed individuals. This can include stressors such as:
  • Childhood abuse
  • Trauma
  • Life transitions, including:
  • Moving to college
  • Experiencing a divorce
  • The death of a loved one

Family history can also be an influential factor. Individuals who have family members that have either abused drugs, alcohol, gambling or who struggled with an eating disorder have a greater chance of developing similar behaviours.

Characteristics / Behaviours

Bulimia and substance or behavioural addictions share may common behaviours and characteristics, such as:
  • Compulsivity (drinking, bingeing, purging, excessive exercise, etc)
  • Obsessive preoccupation (with food, a substance, or an activity)
  • Ritualistic behaviours (OCD)
  • Impulsive choices
  • Social isolation
  • Psychological

Conditions that are psychological by nature may also connect bulimia with a drug/alcohol addiction as well as sex and love addictions, and even gambling addictions..

This includes injured self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Other existing psychological disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also influence the development of co-morbid conditions.

Suffering with co-morbid conditions, such as bulimia and a drug or love addiction, can be overwhelming and devastating. The physical, emotional, and psychological consequences that result from these disorders can be destructive to both the individual and the loved ones involved in their life.

There Is Still Hope

Even in the bleakest of situations, there is always hope. Because of the similar nature of these conditions and the frequency with which they co-occur, many treatment programs offer programs specifically tailored for dual-diagnoses.

The complexity that is involved with treating both an eating disorder and other addictions is prevalent, and professional treatment that specialises in co-morbid conditions is highly recommended and encouraged.

Treatment Is Available

Treatment for these conditions may overlap and includes various forms of:
  • Psychotherapy/Recovery Coaching (incl 12 step groups)
  • Pharmacological treatments
  • Psychiatric / psychological work
  • Medical and natural nutrition therapy

Enlisting the help and support of professionals/recovery coach who specialise in dual diagnosis treatment can promote recovery and help a person truly heal from the many factors involved in both bulimia and other addictions.

If you or a loved one is suffering with both bulimia and any other addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling sex and love, do not delay in asking for the help you need, as the combination of these conditions can prove fatal. Talk to a loved one or trusted friend or mentor if you are not sure where to turn to for help. There is hope for your recovery and for the restoration of your life.


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