Tag Archives: eating disorders

Co-Occurring Mental Illness: Eating Disorders and SUDs

co-occurring mental illness

February 25 - March 3, 2019, is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week or NEDA. It is vital that people across America open up a dialogue about food, body image, eating disorders, and co-occurring mental illness. Such conditions include Anorexia Nervosa (AN), Bulimia Nervosa (BN), Binge Eating Disorder (BED), Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). As many as 20 million women and 10 million men will contend with one of the above disorders at some point in their lives, according to the National Eating Disorder Association.

Eating disorders affect people from all walks of life, regardless of age or gender. Moreover, a person can have an unhealthy relationship with food even if she or he does not meet all the specific criteria for one or more of these complex bio-social illnesses. Naturally, there is much stigma surrounding conditions like AN or BN. Experts refer to these cases as Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder or OSFED. Any eating disorder, like most other mental health conditions recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition), can be fatal if left untreated.

Mental health conditions involving food intake or body image are many. Disordered eating can go unnoticed for years due to societal pressure to look a certain way. What’s more, even those who appear to be at the peak of physical fitness can be suffering from an eating disorder. Many professional athletes place enormous dietary restrictions on themselves or have them imposed by coaches. In many sports, being lighter can mean a competitive edge against an opponent, i.e., cycling, gymnastics, or horse racing. Many professional athletes require assistance.

Male Athletes With Eating Disorders

While most people associate eating disorders as conditions usually affecting women, men struggle too. Millions of males, of all ages, battle with eating disorders at some point in their life and many of them are athletes. This week, Soledad O’Brien probed the dark side of athletics for Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. O’Brien points out that a third of people struggling with an eating disorder are men; she goes on to highlight how athletes are at a heightened risk.

What makes you a great, elite athlete can also make you ‘great,’ if you will, at having an eating disorder,” O’Brien shares with Men’s Health in an interview. She adds, “I think what can first be read as commitment eventually becomes dedication gone horribly wrong.”

Please take a moment to watch a clip on the subject from Real Sports:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Eating Disorder and Co-Occurring Mental Illness

Some people meet the criteria for both eating disorder and co-occurring mental illness. Anxiety, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder plague many people who struggle with eating disorders. Fortunately, a full recovery from an eating disorder and dual diagnosis are possible. It is vital that such individuals receive treatment for each condition simultaneously for successful recovery outcomes.

The National Eating Disorders Association shares that up to 50% of individuals with eating disorders abused alcohol or illicit drugs. The most commonly misused substances by persons with eating disorders are alcohol, laxatives, emetics, diuretics, amphetamines, heroin, and cocaine. Furthermore, some 35 percent of people with substance use disorders or SUDs also have a co-occurring eating disorder.

co-occurring disorder

Please watch a short video on the subject:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

It is critical to keep in mind, substance use disorder can follow disordered eating or the other way around. In the video, Amy Baker Dennis makes clear that substance abuse problems can affect people after they undergo eating disorder treatment. She makes clear that people with binge eating disorders (BED) are particularly vulnerable to developing substance use disorder. Up to 57 percent of men with BED also have a co-occurring substance abuse problem.

We can all have a hand to starting conversations about eating disorders and co-occurring mental illness during NEDA. Please follow this link to learn more.

Co-Occurring Mental Illness Treatment for Men

In the field of addiction medicine, we know that people will often swap one use disorder for another following some time in recovery. Those at risk of one form of mental illness are at a higher risk of developing comorbidity.

If you are a male who struggles with mental illness, we invite you to contact PACE Recovery Center for support. With an accredited team of physicians, doctorate-level clinicians and drug and alcohol counselors we offer treatment for mood disorders, personality disorders and mental health conditions including disordered eating and our mental health program for men can help you make lasting changes and go on to lead a productive life in recovery.

Bodybuilding Supplements Linked to Eating Disorders

bodybuilding-supplementsStaying physically fit is important to many Americans, and rightly so. It is widely accepted that those who exercise feel better than those who do not. In every major city there are private gyms littered throughout, providing outlets for those who would like to live a healthier lifestyle. However, there are times when working out can work against one’s health, becoming habit forming and often involving the use of bodybuilding supplements. Researchers at the California School of Professional Psychology in Alhambra found that a large percentage of men that work out abuse legal bodybuilding supplements, and many are aware that they can be detrimental to health, The Los Angeles Times reports. The study showed that over 40% of men surveyed reported increasing their use of supplements over time, and 29% were aware of the damage that bodybuilding supplements wreak on one’s health. Common bodybuilding supplements, marketed towards men for achieving an optimal body/fat ration include:
  • Protein Bars
  • Creatine Powder
  • Glutamine Capsules
The study authors go one step further, Richard Achiro and co-author Peter Theodore contend that the findings ‘should put risky supplement use “on the map” as an eating disorder that affects “a significant number of men”,’ according to the article. The researchers surveyed 195 men over the age of 18, all of which had reported working out at least twice a week and had used a legal supplement in the previous 30 days. The survey showed:
  • 22% reported having used supplements as meal replacements.
  • 8% were told by a doctor to reduce or stop their use of supplements.
  • 3% reported kidney or liver damage that required hospitalization.
The researchers conclude:
Excessive legal APED [appearance- and performance-enhancing drugs] use may represent a variant of disordered eating that threatens the health of gym-active men.”
The findings were presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting in Toronto. ___________________________________________________________________________ If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder or supplement abuse, please contact Pace Recovery Center.

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