Eating Disorders and Addiction: The Complexity of Co-Occurring Disorders During the Holidays

Woman with happy expression relaxing on meadow

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

In appearance and behavior, a person struggling with an addiction and an eating disorder may seem strikingly different. However, there are many commonalities that link eating disorders and addiction, and it is not uncommon for a person to develop both of these disorders simultaneously.

Though seemingly worlds apart, eating disorders and additions may share similar development roots, like genetic variations, hormonal abnormalities, neurobiology changes, environmental factors, social influences and more.

While on the surface it may appear that a person with an eating disorder has an issue revolving around food and an addict has a lack of control with a certain substance, there is much more than meets the eye.

Individuals who struggle with eating disorders may have an increased chance at developing an addiction, and vice versa is also true. One commonality between eating disorder and addiction behaviors is an inability to cope with difficult situations or generally poor coping skills.

During a season that may bring out greater intensity and stress, such as the holidays, an individual who is struggling with co-occurring eating disorder and addiction, may be more susceptible to falling back into destructive patterns.

Sense of Control

Sustaining a sense of control, even if temporarily, through eating disorder behaviors, or finding a means of escaping from situations that feel unbearable otherwise through an addiction, these behaviors are serving a purpose to the individual struggling.

Pretty girl posing in a metro stationDuring any time of increased pressure, stress, or transition, it is important to understand the interplay between eating disorders and addictions, especially in individuals who are dealing with co-occurring disorders.

If you are simultaneously dealing with an addiction and an eating disorder and have found yourself struggling to stay in recovery during this holiday season, be sure to reach out to professionals who can help guide and support you during this difficult time.

Because of the complexity of these disorders, working with specialists who understand co-occurring disorders can be the key to regaining a life and finding healing and recovery.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

If you are in recovery from an eating disorder, what are some proactive steps you can take to keep self-care a priority during the busy holiday season? What are ways to help prevent burn-out?

Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 25, 2015
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