"Drunkorexia": A Scary Trend in Binge Drinking Disorder

Willow Place on January 25, 2017
“Drunkorexia”: A Scary Trend in Binge Drinking Disorder

Binge drinking disorder is a common behavior for young teens and college-aged adults. According to a 2015 survey conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), 26.9% of people over the age of 18 admitted to binge drinking within the past month. Binge drinking disorder is defined as a frequently engaging in a pattern of alcohol consumption that causes blood alcohol level, or BAC, to rise above the legal limit for driving (0.08.) It can also lead to daily drinking or advanced alcoholism, and when it significantly affects the life of the drinker, it can be considered alcoholism in and of itself. Binge drinking disorder has long been a trend, especially amongst young adults and teens, but a scary new development has risen among college-age drinkers that combine alcohol abuse with disordered eating. It’s called “drunkorexia.”

When Binge Drinking Disorder and Food Restriction Combine

“Drunkorexia” is not a medical term or an official diagnosis, but it’s the term being used to describe a dangerous and alarming pattern that medical professionals and clinicians, especially on college campuses, are seeing more frequently. Studies conducted by the Research Society on Alcoholism, by researchers at the University of Houston, psychiatry professionals at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, and by the University of Florida indicate that there is an increase in “drunkorexia” binge drinking disorder patterns among college students. “Drunkorexia” refers to the behavior of skipping meals in order to “save calories” for drinking later. Some young adults and students restrict their eating during the day in order to binge on high-calorie alcohol later, in an effort to reduce their caloric intake and maintain weight. Some binge drinkers do this in order to maximize the effect of alcohol because drinking on an empty stomach causes an individual to get drunk more quickly and with less alcohol.

Effects of Binge Drinking Disorder and Restriction

Binge drinking disorder can be dangerous on its own, but when combined with restriction in food intake, the consequences can be worse. Binge drinking can cause:

  •      Blackouts
  •      Injury
  •      Alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal
  •      Poor judgment
  •      Loss of consciousness
  •      Nerve damage
  •      Liver problems
  •      Interpersonal strain
  •      Problems at work and school
  •      Brain damage
  •      Gastrointestinal problems
  •      The development of a psychological addiction or physical dependence on alcohol, which can lead to fatal withdrawals

Restricted food intake is also dangerous. Skipping meals or eating less than one needs can lead to:

  •      Cognitive problems, trouble with memory and learning
  •      Muscle loss
  •      A weakened immune system
  •      Increased effect of substances on the body; when combined with alcohol consumption, it can lead to alcohol poisoning
  •      Greater risk of developing an eating disorder
  •      Irritability and stress
  •      Nutrient deficiencies
  •      Fatigue
  •      Poor performance at work and school
  •      Illness or injury from deficiencies

When binge drinking disorder is combined with unhealthy or restrictive eating patterns, the negative effects of both alcohol and restriction feed one another and become worse as a result. This pattern of drinking can lead to the development of serious health consequences, both as a result of poor nutrition and overconsumption.

The Link Between Anorexia and Alcoholism

Individuals who suffer from eating disorders, such as anorexia, and individuals who suffer from substance dependence disorders (such as alcoholism), may have common traits. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri found that the gene variants that contribute to both disorders are the same. This means that someone who suffers from alcoholism may be more likely to also suffer from an eating disorder, and vice versa. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) cites research indicating that almost fifty percent of people who have a diagnosed eating disorder also abuse drugs or alcohol. The link between these two conditions suggests that people at risk for either substance abuse/dependence and for eating disorders may need to treat both conditions and that treatment for either condition is only effective if it also addresses the co-occurring disorder a patient may be suffering from. For people who engage in “drunkorexia” behaviors, developing a healthy relationship to food and substances in vital. Binge drinking disorder can be destructive on its own, and often requires treatment, but when combined with an eating disorder or unhealthy restriction pattern, it can be extraordinarily dangerous and merits serious clinical attention.

Getting Help

Admitting to a binge drinking disorder or alcoholism can be scary due to the stigma associated with this disease. For people who also struggle with unhealthy eating patterns or anorexia, the stigma and shame associated with both can be overwhelming. People who suffer from co-occurring disorders run the risk of only addressing one issue in treatment, because many facilities specialize in either addiction treatment or eating disorder treatment, but not both. However, in order for an individual to be healthy and happy, both illnesses must be treated. That’s where Willow Place for Women differs from the status quo. Our staff is professionally trained, certified, and experienced in treating both eating disorders and alcoholism/addiction. We don’t leave our patients to struggle with either disease because we value and provide comprehensive treatment for both in a supportive, safe environment. If you are suffering from an eating disorder, an addiction, or both, we can help. Call us today at 1-888-651-4212 for information about our programs or for help.

Request a Call Back

If you or someone you love is battling substance use, mental health, or eating disorders, please feel free to contact one of our trained admission specialists today. All calls are free and completely confidential. While we know that suffering from a severe and life-threatening substance use disorder or a mental health issue can, at times, seem insurmountable, we sincerely believe that every woman is capable and deserving of the opportunity to recover. Reaching out is the first step – give us a call today and we will gladly walk you through the process of beginning your beautiful, fulfilling journey of recovery.

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