The Dangerous Consequences of Drunkorexia

Addiction Hope The Dangerous Consequences of Drunkorexia

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope

What possible connections exist between binge drinking and eating disorders? The reality is that many individuals who suffering with eating disorders also struggle with alcohol abuse. “Drunkorexia” is termed to define the combination of eating disordered behaviors, such as self-starvation, bingeing and/or purging, with alcohol abuse [1].

This might be seen in a woman or man who restricts food throughout the day in order to consume or binge on alcohol. While it may seem “harmless” to skip a meal here or there in order to splurge on alcohol, the types of behaviors associated with drunkorexia can lead to dangerous consequences.

The Behaviors of Drunkorexia

While drunkorexia is not a diagnosable condition, there are several behaviors a person might exhibit, such as replacing food consumption with alcoholic drinks or overindulging in alcohol after eating as a means of inducing vomiting. Individuals who engage in these types of patterns may mistakenly believe that by restricting food intake, alcohol can be consumed without impacting weight. Or that calories skipped in food can be replaced by alcohol later in the day.

This belief is a misconception that only produces destructive outcomes, with immediate risks to one’s well-being. Malnutrition that may be the result of periods of starvation or restricting food intake can cause the body to absorb alcohol much more rapidly. This can lead to the following:

  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Blackouts
  • Susceptibility to violence or unwanted sexual encounters
  • Driving under the influence
  • Alcohol-related brain damage

Drunkorexia Affects Everyone

Drunkorexia is a trend that is commonly seen among college students, though anyone can struggle with these types of behaviors. Research has shown a strong connection between people with a history of eating disorders and alcohol dependency, and having a predisposition to an eating disorder can increase susceptibility to alcohol abuse [2].

If you have observed these behaviors in someone you love, or if you yourself struggle with “drunkorexia” patterns, it is crucial that you seek professional help and support. Repetitive periods of starving or bingeing/purging combined with alcohol abuse or binge drinking could potentially be fatal.

The first step towards seeking help is identifying the problem and understanding that these types of behaviors are not simply “fads” or “trends” but a lifestyle that could be threatening to your very existence. The complexity of drunkorexia may keep you from seeking help; however, professional treatment can be your surest way to recovery.

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How might you approach a loved one who is struggling with drunkorexia?


  • [1]: Reimold, Dan (May 29, 2012). “College Word of the Year Contest contenders: Drunkorexia, shmacked and FOMO”. The Washington Post. Accessed 7 January 2015.
  • [2]: Burke, S.C.; Cremeens, J.; Vail-Smith, K.; Woolsey, C. (2010). “Drunkorexia: calorie restriction prior to alcohol consumption among college freshman”. Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education 54 (2).

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 20th, 2015
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