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Eating Disorders Share a link with Alcohol Abuse

Detecting eating disorders and Alcohol Abuse

Eating disorders and alcohol abuse might fall into two entirely different categories, but research has found a direct link. Where the former exists, the latter is wont to follow, and vice versa, according to the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Each has been granted research-driven specific treatments developed to control and eradicate the psychological problems leading to such maltreatment of the body, and yet both issues are prevalent in Western societies.

What this body of research has concluded is that those who are prone to abusing alcohol are more likely to develop an imbalance in their eating habits, while those who have the eating disorders are more likely to become avid alcoholics. Where most studies have focused on women, it’s come to light that men suffer from the same problem as well.

The eating disorders prevalent in the 6000 twins studied were binge-eating and purging, including the use of laxatives and self-induced vomiting. Alcoholism was also found to have a similar underlying genetic overlap, explaining 38-53% of the risk in developing these disorders. Women who had either of these two types of eating disorders were much more likely to abuse alcohol use.

Yet, when one is admitted for treatment for either disorder, the focus is never lifted to see whether or not there might be others paralleling the problems they concretely face. Gregory heading to AA meetings won’t be asked if he has binge-eating cycles or if he then forces what was ingested back out of his body. Anna, admitted into a clinic to treat her bulimia, won’t normally be asked if she has been drinking from early on that day or every other day before that.

Some tips for detecting eating disorders mean you should check for:

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• Anorexia Nervosa:
o Extremely low weight and accelerated weight loss
o Cold intolerance
o Bloating or constipation
o Yellowish skin
o Lanugo hair (extremely thin, soft, downy hair normally shed right after birth) present on arms and chest
o Irregular heart rate
o Amenorrhea (lack of menstrual cycle due to low levels of energy and calorie intake)

• Bulimia:
o Looks healthy but has lost over 14 pounds in less than 3 months
o Erosion of teeth enamel due to vomiting
o Hoarse voice due to constant acid burn
o Russell’s Sign on knuckles (from biting down to vomit)
o Swelling in lower limbs
o Rectal bleeding due to constipation

Tips for recognizing alcoholism in those around you include checking for:

• Alcoholic parents- chances are that if one parent was abusing alcohol, the child will as well

• Comorbidity- alcoholics often suffer from other disorders as well: women are more likely to fall into depression or develop anxiety problems, while men are known to abuse other drugs and develop antisocial personality disorders

• Have children with fetal alcohol syndrome- even 7 to 14 drinks a week will reduce a child’s abilities in everyday function, learning and sociability.
If you know someone or have a loved one suffering from either of the two disorders, contact a doctor immediately. It might help save a life dear to you. Seeing connections between disorders will also help doctors improve treatment processes to target underlying factors causing the rise in these self-harming behaviours.

Reference: WUSTL, NCBI, AAFP.