Anorexia is the most common cause of weight loss in young women, and about 80-90% of people with anorexia are female. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every six Americans binge drink, and some of these individuals struggle with substance abuse disorder and are unable to stop drinking.
Drunkorexia is the convergence of these two disorders. The consequences of drunkorexia can be severe, including malnutrition, liver damage, and an increased risk of alcohol poisoning. This guide helps someone struggling with drunkorexia understand the condition and the next steps:
Definition and Details of Drunkorexia
Sometimes, a person worries about the extra calories that come from drinking alcohol and decides to offset the calories by reducing their food intake. This is defined as drunkorexia, and it is more commonly seen in women than in men.
The term drunkorexia does not have clinical usage among mental health professionals. Rather, it has become a widely-used slang term to describe individuals who intentionally don't eat to compensate for the high-calorie intake from binge drinking. This behavior is most commonly observed in college students and young adults.
Individuals who are dealing with drunkorexia may not have initially experienced anorexia nervosa or a substance use disorder. The fear of consuming extra calories from alcohol, along with the urge to drink, leads to the development of drunkorexia. By choosing not to eat before drinking, a person can experience the effects of alcohol much faster.
The effects of alcohol and substance abuse disorder can lead to a host of issues, as can the lack of a healthy and nutritious diet. Unfortunately, drunkorexia becomes a pattern that a person struggles with and can be difficult to break on their own.
Signs of Drunkorexia
The signs and symptoms of drunkorexia mimic those of anorexia and substance abuse disorder of alcohol. However, it's important to note that the person with drunkorexia avoids eating throughout the day with the intention of binge drinking in the evening. Here are some other signs to consider:
- Counting calories
- Mood swings
- Blackouts (due to alcohol consumption)
- Lying about how much the person eats or how much alcohol they drink
- Unable to attend classes or go to work
- Stomach issues, such as pain, constipation, and more
- Extreme exercising to offset calorie consumption
- Dental issues
Many of these signs and symptoms can indicate an eating disorder alone. What makes drunkorexia different is that the person is reducing calories by not eating food and meals to offset the calories they plan to get through drinking alcohol, especially binge drinking.
Long-Term Effects of Drunkorexia
It's essential that a person with drunkorexia seek treatment to minimize some of the long-term effects of the condition. Most long-term effects reflect those found in people struggling with anorexia and substance abuse disorder. Some of these include:
- Legal repercussions
- Damage to the kidney and liver due to alcohol consumption
- Malnutrition and reduced growth
- Neurological problems, such as seizures
- Nerve damage
- Hormonal and reproductive issues, especially in women
- Blood pressure problems
The long-term effects of drunkorexia can be life-threatening. A person struggling with drunkorexia should seek treatment promptly to minimize any of these effects that might continue throughout their lifetime. The long-term effects of anorexia, including malnutrition, weakened immune system, and organ damage, can worsen these consequences and have lasting impacts. If you or someone you know is struggling with drunkorexia or anorexia, seeking prompt treatment and support is crucial to minimize these effects and improve long-term outcomes.
Treatment for Drunkorexia
As with any substance abuse disorder, drunkorexia treatment always begins when the person stops drinking or using the substance. With drunkorexia, the person binge drinks but might not experience the withdrawal symptoms that an alcoholic may encounter, especially if they go days or weeks between binges.
Once the person stops drinking, they'll need intensive therapy or treatment like an IOP to identify the reasons behind the eating disorder. At the beginning of treatment, the center might perform other tests to determine the patient's overall health and well-being.
Therapy can include working with a therapist one on one, group therapy, family therapy, dietitian, meal planning and prep, and more. The goal is to help the person build the skills they need to make and maintain a full recovery.
Eating Disorder Treatment in Vermont
When a person struggles with drunkorexia, they need to seek treatment to achieve recovery and maintain a more normal lifestyle. Drunkorexia can lead to serious health consequences, including liver damage, malnutrition, and alcohol poisoning. Seeking help from medical professionals and support groups can be crucial in overcoming this disorder.
At Kahm Center for Eating Disorders, we offer metabolic testing and body composition analysis along with more traditional therapies to treat eating disorders. Our approach is rooted in empathy and kindness, with the goal of guiding individuals who are struggling with eating disorders back to their normal lives. Contact us today to learn more about the ways we can help and the services we offer.
Clinically Reviewed By
Nick Kahm, PhD
Nick Kahm, a former philosophy faculty member at St. Michael's College in Colchester, VT, transitioned from academia to running the Kahm Clinic with his mother. He started the clinic to train dietitians in using Metabolic Testing and Body Composition Analysis for helping people with eating disorders. Now, he is enthusiastic about expanding eating disorder treatment through the Kahm Center for Eating Disorders in Vermont.