Drunkorexia Combines Addiction and Eating Disorder Behaviors

Table of Contents

Most people have heard of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Still, however, most people don’t recognize the concept of drunkorexia. Drunkorexia involves utilizing weight management or weight loss behaviors to offset the calories consumed during binge drinking. Drunkorexia behaviors can take place before or after alcohol consumption. A person may restrict food intake or skip all meals during the day in order to allow for a night of heavy drinking to constitute their caloric intake for the day. 

Alternatively, after a night of excessive drinking, a person will try to make up for the increased amount of calories contained in the alcohol and any mixers they drank by skipping meals, eating a lower than usual amount for meals, exercising, or even purging at the end of the day. Purging is a common behavior used by people with an eating disorder and includes the act of vomiting or using laxatives to rid the body of calories before they are absorbed. Those experimenting with drunkorexia behaviors often believe they have found a secret way to help control their weight and do not recognize that they are endangering their health. 

Risks Associated with Drunkorexia

The act of restricting food intake can mean that the very nutrients needed to metabolize alcohol are not consumed, forcing the body into a nutrient deficiency. Overindulging in exercise, especially for someone who does not work out regularly, can strain the heart and contribute to bodily injuries. Those who practice frequent purging can also cause damage to their gastrointestinal system and the stomach acid produced from purging can erode their tooth enamel. Overconsumption of alcohol on an empty stomach may result in becoming intoxicated faster than a person recognizes, resulting in poor impulse control. Establishing a habit of managing weight via unhealthy eating habits to engage in habitual binge drinking puts a person at risk of becoming alcohol dependent. 

Women and College Students Are at a Higher Risk

While anyone can engage in drunkorexia behaviors, they are most commonly used by younger people, especially women. Women suffer from a disproportionate amount of pressure to stay thin, compared to men. As a result, they are more susceptible to peer pressure. Australian researchers studied female university students and discovered that 82.7% of them had practiced drunkorexia behaviors in the previous three months. More than 28% were found to regularly engage in such actions. Too often, students and other young people believe they are merely being smart about their caloric consumption. They pass along what they do to others in their peer group as if they are harmless diet tips.

Drunkorexia is not considered an eating disorder, nor is it listed as a type of addiction, but it is directly related to disorders from both behavioral health concerns. It is a relatively new buzzword, but more and more treatment professionals understand how important it is to take it seriously. A study of over 25,000 U.S. students showed they were more likely to use many different eating disorder behaviors. The University of South Florida has gone so far as to suggest naming this particular phenomenon ‘Food and Alcohol Disturbance,’ in an attempt to publicize how serious and common it has become.

Treatment Options

Since drunkorexia is not considered an official medical diagnosis, it can be challenging to know how best to approach it. A trained clinician familiar with it can begin by addressing both the eating disorder and addiction aspects of the condition. It is often eye-opening for someone who engages in drunkorexia behaviors to find out that what they are doing is dangerous and has the potential to develop into a full-blown addiction, eating disorder, or both. In addition, overuse of alcohol can contribute to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, further complicating their ability to change their behaviors.  

Related Conditions and Buzz Words

A ‘manorexic’ is a phrase that gained some traction years ago and is defined as a man who engages in anorexic behaviors or has been diagnosed as anorexic. ‘Manorexia’ is separated from the general term anorexia due to the mistaken belief that only women become anorexic, and a man who does so is outside the ordinary and requires a different label. Manorexia is not an accepted term in the psychiatric or medical community. 

Diabulimia is now recognized as an eating disorder behavior or condition that involves diabetics manipulating their insulin intake to control their weight. While anyone can use diabulimia behaviors, it is most common in younger females with Type 1 Diabetes. Any medical or psychological professional treating someone with diabetes must understand the risk of diabulimia behaviors and how to recognize them.

People who want to engage in excessive drinking or who regularly binge drink often are wary of the extra calories in the alcohol. Some people use what’s referred to as ‘drunkorexia’ to control their weight while still indulging in their drinking binges. Drunkorexia is a dangerous combination of an addiction and an eating disorder, making it essential to address before it progresses further. Silver Lining can help people who struggle with alcoholism with our outpatient programs designed to help you get control of your addiction. Our goal is to help you flourish when you leave our treatment. We offer different types of therapy and treatment modalities, a 12-step program, and small groups of no more than five people, allowing for individualized treatment that encourages your sobriety. Located in beautiful Huntington Beach, California, we are ready to talk to you about how to change your life. Call us now! (866) 448-4563.