Bulimia and Alcoholism

Suffering from a dual diagnosis of bulimia and alcoholism is a growing problem among women in the United States. In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that women with bulimia nervosa were more likely than their peers to have an alcohol use disorder of some kind despite the fact that binge drinking, heavy drinking and alcoholism are already prevalent among the general population.

Either disorder alone is enough to wreak havoc in a patient’s life, but bulimia can exacerbate the issues caused by alcohol abuse and further complicate the experience of the patient, making it harder for her to reach out for help and heal. If your loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse, binge drinking, or alcoholism in addition to a mental health disorder like an eating disorder, contact us today to be matched with the right program for her needs.

What Are the Physical Effects of Alcohol Use Disorders?

There are a number of physical ailments that can become a significant problem for those who drink heavily and regularly. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), these can include any of the following:

  • Heart problems
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Fibrosis or cirrhosis of the liver
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancers, including breast cancer, mouth cancer, esophageal cancer and throat cancer

Additionally, drinking too much and too often can decrease the ability of the body’s immune system to protect against illness and disease – and issues caused by other disorders, like bulimia.

How Are Effects of Alcohol Use Worsened by Bulimia?

Bulimia can cause a number of physical problems, according to a study published in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology. These include:

  • Dental caries
  • Erosion of tooth enamel
  • Esophagitis
  • Changes in gastric capacity
  • Changes in the intestinal mucosa
  • Gastric necrosis


Alcohol is inflammatory, and even when bulimia is not an issue, it can cause bleeding ulcers and other gastro problems. With this chronic exposure to an inflammatory agent, bulimia only makes matters worse, exposing the inflamed areas to erosive stomach acids and more rapidly causing the issues listed above common to the disorder.

Are Bulimia and Alcoholism Attempts to Address Ego Deficits?

One report published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment suggested that bulimia and alcoholism were two sides of the same coin. Researchers said that a high number of women who reported struggling with bulimia also reported having an alcohol use disorder and say that it may be because alcohol, drugs and food are all used to “minimize the impact of ego deficits.” They suggest that, for this reason, whether the substance of choice is food or alcohol, the person overindulges in an unconscious attempt to address some deficiency that they feel or some area in which they believe they are lacking, making the disorders more than just physical problems but issues with a significant psychological impact as well.

Are There Other Disorders Common Among Women Living with Bulimia and Alcoholism?

According to the study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, participants who were living with bulimia and an alcohol use disorder were more likely to be influenced by issues caused by other mental health disorders – specifically post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder. As with alcohol abuse and any mental health disorder or disorders, it is essential that the chosen treatment program focuses on providing medical, psychiatric and  psychotherapeutic care for all disorders that are underlying or driving the destructive behaviors.

A New Life Can Begin Today

Your loved one can embark upon the treatment that will help her to overcome disordered eating habits as well as alcohol use and abuse when she opts for a dual diagnosis treatment program equipped to treat both disorders simultaneously. Contact us today, and we can help you connect your family member with the rehabilitation that will improve her life now.

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