Eating Disorders and substance abuse

Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders

What is an Eating Disorder?

An Eating Disorder (ED) as defined by NEDA is: “…extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences.”

You probably see ‘Eating Disorder’ thrown around in the media frequently. “This model has an ED, that actor was heard purging in the bathroom on set,” etc.

Unfortunately, the phrase ‘Eating Disorder’ has become desensitized over the years directly correlated with the increasing sum of tabloid magazines.

Let us set the record straight, right now: eating disorders are serious. They are not a ‘cool new fad,’ they are not a solution to your weight problems, nor are they something to be taken lightly by any means. Eating disorders do not discriminate; regardless of your age, race, gender, sexual orientation, hobbies, or your childhood, you could suffer from an eating disorder.

ED is also very common among substance abusers. 50% of individuals with an eating disorder are also abusing drugs or alcohol according to NEDA.

Commonality Between Substance Abuse & ED

Substance abuse and eating disorders are common co-occurring disorders. As mentioned above, 50% of individuals with an eating disorder are also abusing drugs or alcohol according to the National Eating Disorder Association. This commonality between substance abuse and eating disorders originates from the fundamental similarity between the two diseases.

The 3 primary similarities are as follows:

  • Common Risk Factors: ED and substance abuse stem from similar risk factors such as family history, an imbalance in brain chemistry, or stress
  • Stress: both substance abuse and eating disorders seem to appear or intensify during stressful periods of time in the individual’s life
  • Compulsive Behaviors

Luckily, substance abuse and ED benefit from the same level and approach of treatment.

What do we mean by that?

Both substance abuse and ED can be treated by the use of a holistic approach of mind, body, and spirit. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), psychotherapy, family therapy, group therapy, and holistic therapy (yoga, acupuncture, wilderness therapy, and more) are all common treatment methods.

To learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment program at New Method Wellness, you can call 866-951-1824 or you can visit our website at

Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, as do the individuals who suffer from ED.

The most common types of Eating Disorders are as follows:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: Anorexia Nervosa, or most commonly referred to as ‘anorexia’ is an ED that is often characterized by low body weight, an obsession with calories and food consumption, and ‘body dysmorphia’ (an obsession with a perceived flaw in one’s body).
  • Bulimia Nervosa: Bulimia Nervosa, or most commonly referred to as ‘bulimia’ is an ED that is characterized by a binge (high caloric meal) and followed by a purge (vomiting, excessive exercise, or the use of a laxative or a stimulant).
  • Binge Eating Disorder: Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by a binge (high caloric meal) often paired with sentiments of ‘lack of control’ followed by intense and overwhelming feelings of remorse and self-hatred.

Each type of ED comes with its own difficulties and health concerns. Neither type of ED is worse than the others; they all deserve equal attention.

Do I Have an Eating Disorder?

If you’ve gotten this far in our blog, you may be asking yourself: “Do I have an ED?” Or, you may be worried that your loved one is suffering from an ED.

You can take an assessment on the NEDA website by clicking the button below.

Signs of an Eating Disorder

There are common signs of each type of ED, which are not the ultimate determining factor of an eating disorder, but, they are a great starting point.

Signs of Anorexia Nervosa
  • Restricting nutritional intake in order to maintain a weight below average limit for age and height
  • Practicing eating rituals (cutting up food into small pieces, only eating certain foods)
  • Purging: vomiting, compulsive exercising, laxatives, stimulants
  • Obsession with weight and size; weighing oneself multiple times per day
Physical Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa
  • Extreme thinness
  • Excessive body hair
  • Thin/brittle hair
  • Loss of menstrual periods for women
  • dizziness, fatigue, fainting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
Signs of Bulimia Nervosa
  • Consume large amounts of calories at a single sitting
  • Force oneself to vomit, exercise fanatically, or use laxatives or stimulants
  • Obsession with weight
  • Typically average weight or overweight
  • Secretive about purging habits
Physical Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa
  • Sores in mouth
  • Discoloration under eyes
  • Dry skin
  • Thin hair
  • Fatigue
  • Scars on knuckles
  • Swollen salivary glands
Tools for Your ED

If you have determined that you or your loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, there are plenty of great tools out there for you to keep in your back pocket.

We have included a bunch of different mediums, choose whichever one makes you the most comfortable.

Informative Websites
  • OA
  • Get Well Together

Remember, you are a fighter. Asking for help is one of the most courageous things you can do.

It’s Time For A New Method


  • Contacting for:
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

+1 (866) 951-1824