Many people ask the question "what is drunkorexia?" Drunkorexia is a street term referring to a behavioral pattern. The process involves starving oneself during the day, binge drinking later in the day, and then binge eating junk food after drinking. It is a combination of eating disorders, such as anorexia, with binge drinking. The reoccurrence of this type of behavior can lead to a worsening of physical health, as well as the development of an alcohol addiction.
The term drunkorexia is relatively new, only a few years old. The condition is not as new. Drunkorexia is a mixture of alcoholism and anorexia nervosa. Generally, a person suffering from drunkorexia will deprive himself or herself of food during the day, in an attempt to keep calories under control when he or she goes drinking later. Although more men engage in binge drinking, more women than men suffer from drunkorexia.
Generally, there is a misconception that by reducing the number of food calories during the day, weight gain will balance out when a person binge drinks later. Also, those who wish to become intoxicated quickly avoid food in order to allow for more rapid absorption of alcohol from the stomach and small intestines. Finally, individuals think that alcohol will provide them with calories to replace the ones they avoided earlier in the day. However, alcohol has no nutritional value, and the individuals are consuming what are considered "empty calories.”
The National Eating Disorder Association defines drunkorexia as behaviors that include “replacing food consumption with excessive alcohol consumption or consuming food along with sufficient amounts of alcohol to induce vomiting as a method of purging and numbing feelings.”
Binge drinking, a common occurrence among college aged students and weekend drinkers, is defined as the rapid consumption of large quantities of alcohol over a short period of time. There is no differentiation between beer, hard liquor or wine.
Signs of Binge Drinking and Alcohol Poisoning:
- Irregular breathing
- Extreme confusion
- Inability to be awakened
The Center for Disease Control has listed several problems associated with binge drinking. They include:
- Alcohol poisoning
- Unintended pregnancy
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Children born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
- Neurological damage
75% of all alcohol consumed in the United States is consumed by adults in the form of binge drinking!
Eating disorders combined with excessive alcohol consumption may take a variety of forms. For those who suffer from drunkorexia, the likelihood of developing an eating disorder is increased, if the eating disorder does not already exist. There are serious consequences attached to starving the body of calories on days of heavy drinking. In many cases, the user's body will be unable to absorb or process the alcohol fast enough to avoid alcohol poisoning.
If a person engages in binge drinking regularly, despite the presence of an eating disorder, that person is susceptible to developing an addiction to alcohol. The cycle of addiction is not subtle and its grip is strong. The mistake many people make is thinking that drinking only on the weekends does not make them vulnerable to alcoholism.
It is arguable whether drunkorexia is new disorder or not, but there is no question that people suffering from anorexia or bulimia are prone to alcohol or substance abuse. According to a 2009 study by the International Journal of Eating Disorders, there is a critical need for interventions for college women targeting binge drinking and eating disorders.
There is no specific treatment for "drunkorexia" as it is not a medically diagnosable disorder. It is, as stated above, a combination of two different disorders. Treatment will need to address both the eating disorder, and the alcoholism. Not all treatment centers can address both. There may also be an underlying mental health disorder driving both the eating disorder and the alcohol addiction. An accurate diagnosis is vital to arresting both conditions.
Regaining healthy eating habits and maintaining abstinence can be done with the right information and tools. A dual diagnosis program supervised by addiction certified physicians, psychiatrists and therapist can create an individualized plan for the patient and provide the support, the knowledge, and the skills necessary to rebuild his or her life. The earlier the intervention, the better the outcome.
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