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The Common Ground between Eating Disorders and Addiction

Anorexia and bulimia - word cloud concept

Updated on

The Common Ground between Eating Disorders and Addiction

Anorexia and bulimia - word cloud concept

The correlation between eating disorders and addiction has been thoroughly studied, but what is it that makes the connection so strong? Research has shown that nearly 50% of individuals with an eating disorder also struggle with drug and/or alcohol abuse, with higher rates of death for both disorders from health consequences and medical complications. Whether independent or co-occurring, these disorders present the most serious health risk effecting both men and women, stretching across various ages, ethnicities and socio-economic demographics.

Both addiction and eating disorders are considered to be prompted by genetic, biological, psychological, social and environmental factors; meaning there is no single cause, but interconnecting influences. The American Society of Addiction Medicine now includes “process” addictions, such as food, sex or gambling addiction, in the same categorical definition as substance addiction. Addiction, whatever form it may take, activates the reward center in the brain, in the same way feeling accomplished, taking care of our bodies, enjoying activity, or being in love will produce feel-good responses.

Another connection between the disorders, is that the symptoms of the each disorder are typically just an expression, or an escape route for a larger problem. Anxiety, stress and depression, as well as traumatic experiences will often prompt the onset of seeking comfort, stability or escape. The sense of control or relief created by addictive behaviors is brief and when the real issue causing the behavior is not being dealt with, an individual struggling will continue to experience increasing distortions in thinking and emotions.

Both eating disorders and addiction are treatable and with treatment, people struggling with either or both can lead a healthy and fulfilling life, with some hard work and dedication to changing old thinking patterns. Another important factor to consider is that the sooner treatment is sought, the better chance a person has for a long lasting recovery.

About the author

Deanna James, LPC, R-DMT — Director of Marketing, Alumni and Referral Relations

Ms. James obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma in Psychology. She went on to obtain her Master of Arts in Dance Movement Therapy and Counseling from Columbia College Chicago. Ms. James is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Dance and Movement Therapist. She has worked at Castlewood Treatment Center since 2006 in various roles including therapist, program director and now as the Director of Marketing.

Ms. James has completed level I training in the Internal Family Systems model of therapy. She incorporates creative arts therapy, internal family systems therapy and cognitive behavioral therapies in her approach to therapeutic healing. Ms. James specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, trauma based disorders and body image issues. She is a member of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals as well as the American Dance Movement Therapy Association. In her current role as Director of Marketing, Referral and Alumni relations she works as a liaison between Castlewood and referring clinicians, oversees coordination of marketing events, as well as facilitates the alumni program and alumni follow up program.

Ms. James is the continuing education administrator for all Castlewood workshops and trainings. She also coordinates all social media, websites, and media campaigns for Castlewood Treatment Center. Deanna has a passion for working with clients with eating disorders and helping them find hope and healing.

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