How Are Eating Disorders and Addiction Connected?

When we are struggling with addiction, we have formed a dependent attachment to a substance, behavior or relationship. We feel compulsiveness, chemical dependence, neediness and obsessiveness around our drug of choice. Our addictions are evidence of our lack of wholeness, as well as our means of trying to fill our emotional voids. Eating disorders are similar to addiction in many ways. They can function in similar ways, and have very similar effects on our minds and bodies. Just like mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, eating disorders can be treated as co-occurring disorders alongside addiction. Our struggles with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating can all indicate parallel issues to the ones related to our addictions.

With eating disorders, we have an unhealthy relationship with food. We fear food and gaining weight, yet we eat excessively. We eat next to nothing, convinced we are overweight even when we are severely underweight. We suffer from body dysmorphic disorder, where the image we hold of ourselves in our minds is not an accurate reflection of our actual appearance. We obsess about our physical flaws and constantly dwell on the things we hate about ourselves and wish we could change. We spend considerable amounts of money to completely alter our bodies and faces. We endanger our physical health by starving ourselves, purging and bingeing. When we engage in our eating related compulsions, we are driven by an intense, desperate need to change how we feel – about ourselves, our circumstances, our lives. We feel ashamed of ourselves and embarrassed about our pasts. We feel disappointed in ourselves. We feel deeply sad about our lives and who we are.

Many of our emotional issues when it comes to our eating disorders overlap with our addiction-related issues, and many of them come from our unresolved trauma. We have created a self-image based on judgment, criticism, self-hatred and self-rejection. This self-perception totally taints how we feel about ourselves, how we treat ourselves, how we think and speak about ourselves, and therefore how we relate to the rest of the world and how we operate within it. When we hate ourselves, we are filled with sadness, fear, bitterness and resentment, all of which can negatively impact our relationships with other people, our interactions on a regular basis, and how we conduct ourselves.

The unhealed wounds contributing to our addictions can easily contribute to our mental health issues and eating disorders. Everything we do, think and feel is interrelated, so our emotional issues can manifest as different illnesses, symptoms and challenges, with the same root causes at the center. We often will use our addictions to escape the pain of our eating disorders, and vice versa. Our eating disorders also function as an addiction. We are compulsively addicted to our behavior of choice when it comes to food. Understanding all of our emotional issues and examining them holistically is a key part of healing from our addictions and co-occurring eating disorders.

Let Riverside Recovery support you in your healing journey as you move from addiction to freedom. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information on how we can help.