Binge Eating Disorders


Different buzzwords are emerging on the internet and news reports that are deviations of bulimia and anorexia. Some of these buzz words are orthorexia, manorexia, and diabulimia. Many magazines glamorize celebrities that have these disorders, while doctors and therapists try hard to help those who are suffering from one of these disorders.

One more buzz word is being added to the list; drunkorexia. This term is used to describe those who combine alcohol abuse with either starving themselves, or take part in bingeing and purging.

Although drunkorexia is not a medical word, it indicates the problems of alcoholism and eating disorders. The age category that are referred to as drunkorexics are mainly college-age women. These women are binge drinkers who starve themselves during the day to compensate for the calories found in the alcohol they drink. Drunkorexia is also used to describe people who binge on alcohol and food and then purge afterward.

Most anorexics stay away from alcohol because of its calories. However, some people like to use alcohol to relax themselves due to the stress they feel from eating. Other people drink alcohol as their only caloric intake. Another group forgoes the alcohol and use illicit drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine to curb their appetites.

Dr. Douglas Bunnell, the director of outpatient clinical services for the Renfrew Center in Philadelphia says it is interesting that women who fear eating a grape due to calories don’t have any difficulty drinking a beer. The Renfrew Center is one of many treatment centers that focus on both eating disorders and substance abuse. Most of these centers are located on the West Coast.

Bunnell believes that the trend to be skinny and the fact that drug and alcohol use are socially acceptable are part of the problem. It also doesn’t help that celebrities also make staying in rehab fashionable.

Binge drinking appears to be the thing to do among the college age group. Combine that with a young woman who is dieting and trying to fit in by being thin and you have huge problem.

Eating disorders are often based in the need to drive away emotional pain. Most often these disorders are a result of neglect, sexual abuse, or some other childhood trauma.

The term manorexia refers to a male with anorexia. Orthorexia describes a person who is so preoccupied with eating healthy that they deny themselves of essential nutrients. Diabulimia is when a diabetic doesn’t take their insulin because it can result in gaining weight. However, diabulimia generally doesn’t entail purging.

The phrase binge eating disorder describes a person who continually binges on foods that have lots of sugar and salt and then purges to rid their body of the calories. They generally do not exercise.
Judy Van De Veen, who is now 36, became anorexic when she was 24. She starved herself by only eating tiny bits of low-calorie food for two months. After that she began the bingeing and purging cycle. She would spend up to $80 a day on fast food, whole pizzas, and boxes of cereal, before throwing them up.

In the late 1990s she attended both inpatient and outpatient treatment for many years. Then in 2001 she started drinking. She said should would purge if she ate while drinking alcohol, but them would drink more to make up for the loss of alcohol. She just wanted to stay drunk.

Doctors say many bulimics use alcohol as a way to purge because liquid is easier to throw up than solid food. They also end up vomiting because they are drinking on an empty stomach.

Judy Van De Veen said that when she first became anorexic she would avoid any alcohol because of its high caloric content. But, the more she had the disease, the more she drank. She was often hospitalized for dehydration due to her purging.

During her rehabilitation attempts, she was part of a 12-step program. She did time in six different rehab programs, paying her own way since she wasn’t covered by health insurance. But since none of the rehab programs also dealt with eating disorders, she continued bingeing and purging.

She has now been sober for three years, but still battles bulimia. Judy has a daughter who is 14 months and that during her pregnancy and with the help of support groups she is making progress.
When she was pregnant, she said she had an excuse to eat and enjoyed it. But, the urge to overeat and purge still tempts her.

Another woman, Trish has suffered from eating disorders for 10 of her 27 years. She is starting her fifth treatment, this time at Renfrew. Trish began her struggle with anorexia and then turned to alcohol. Prior to finding Renfrew, she frequently blacked out from lack of food and was afflicted with tremendous stomach pain.

Trish is a cardiac nurse and says she would starve through her 8 to 10 hour shifts. She would watch the clock counting down the time until she could get a drink. She said that it stresses her to eat in front of others, and a drink was how she relaxes. She also said that the alcohol is what kept her from loosing too much weight.
Trish believes that drinking helped her be herself and reduce her anxiety. She said, “If I drink more, I’m more into my eating disorder and vice versa.”

Research indicates that alcohol abuse and binge drinking are becoming more common among women. They are also more likely to have eating disorders than men are.

A study published in Biological Psychiatry shows that 25 to 33 percent of bulimics also have a problem with drugs or alcohol. The statistics are slightly lower for anorexics, with 20 to 25 percent of them having drug or alcohol problems.

Scientists are trying to explain the neurological and psychological connection between substance abuse and eating disorders. They are also trying to see if other substances such as chocolate can trigger the same brain connections as alcohol or drugs.

Dr. Suzette M. Evans, a Columbia professor of Clinical Neuroscience says studying the correlation between substance abuse and bulimia has been ignored. She believes that people are just making the connection that food can cause effects similar to alcohol and drugs.
It is difficult to treat substance abuse and eating disorders together. You can work on no longer partaking of the drugs or alcohol, but the person has to continue to eat.

Dr. Kevin Wandler is the vice president of medical services at Remunda Ranch. This facility treats both addiction and eating disorders. He says they help their patients work on life skills and positive behaviors. He says, “Eating normally would be an effective behavior, but it’s easier to give up alcohol and drugs because you never need it again, if your drug is food, that’s a challenge.”

Trish left Renfrew earlier this year after completing her second stay there. She is motivated to rid herself of her fixation of food, weight, and alcohol. Prior to her treatment, she didn’t have energy to even laugh, but as she left she was full of hope.

She no longer wants to live the way she has for the past ten years. She has learned to not be ashamed of herself, but to love who she is and forgive herself of her shortcomings.

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