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During National Eating Disorders Awareness Week we would like to take the opportunity to discuss the topic of dual diagnosis—otherwise known as co-occurring disorders. People living with one form of mental illness – treated or untreated – are at a higher risk of contending with another type of mental disease. Any mental health disorder can develop as a result of chemical dependency or can begin affecting an individual before a use disorder develops.

The order of condition onset varies from patient-to-patient; but, what matters is that all psychological disorders – from addiction to eating disorders – are treated concurrently. Successful treatment and recovery outcomes depend on addressing the needs of the whole client. If a person presents for addiction treatment and has a co-occurring disorder overlooked, it can derail the process of their recovery.

At Hope By The Sea, we stress the importance of reviewing each client’s medical history and conduct a screening and assessment process to determine if symptoms of a dual diagnosis are present. Since more than half of people meeting the criteria for addiction also have a co-occurring mental illness, the likelihood of finding markers of mental illness in new patients is high.

Armed with a comprehensive understanding of what a client is struggling with, we can develop a customized treatment plan. Monitoring a secondary mental illness diagnosis is of equal importance as the addiction recovery process. Each client has different needs; some may require medications while others can manage their co-occurring illness with therapeutic techniques alone. Whatever the case may be—successful recovery outcomes demand that a client learns how to both manage a program of recovery and keep the symptoms of a dual diagnosis from interfering with progress.

It is critical that a co-occurring issue does not contribute or serve as a catalyst for relapse.

Eating Disorders and Substance Use Disorder

eating disorders

As mentioned above, this is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, people living with eating disorders are five times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, compared to the general population. Moreover, men and women living with a substance use disorder have eating disorders at a rate 11 times greater than the general population. It is not difficult to see that eating disorders and addiction accompany each other quite often.

There are several types of eating disorders whose criteria can be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. They include:

  • Anorexia Nervosa (AN)
  • Bulimia Nervosa (BN)
  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
  • Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

“Substance abuse problems may begin before the onset of an eating disorder, during an eating disorder, or even after recovery,” said Amy Baker Dennis, Ph. D., FAED. She adds that “Men with binge eating disorder have a tendency to have very high rates of substance abuse; up to 57 percent of men with BED also have a co-occurring substance abuse problem.”

eating disorder prevalence

People battling both eating disorders and substance use disorders can benefit from co-occurring disorder treatment. Recovery is real, and help is available.

If you are unsure if you meet the criteria for an eating disorder and may require assistance, then you may find some insight from the National Eating Disorders Association’s screening tool.  

Please note: This survey is not meant as a diagnostic tool, but your results could indicate that this is an excellent time to start a conversation with a professional.

California Dual Diagnosis Treatment

The miracle of recovery can be yours too. Please contact Hope By The Sea if you are living with an untreated alcohol or substance use disorder. We can help you break the cycle of addiction, address any co-occurring mental illnesses, and help you chart a path toward lasting recovery.