Body image disorders and eating disorders go hand-in-hand. Because you may feel your body is not thin enough — no matter how thin you actually are — you may develop an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa (“AN”) or bulimia nervosa (“BN”). While they exhibit different symptoms, each eating disorder attempts to solve the problem of the body image disorder by forcing the body to conform to a distorted mental image of how your body should look.
In AN, you will restrict calories, vomit consumed food or exercise aggressively to prevent weight gain and lose weight. In BN, you may binge eat then expel, purge or use other means to prevent absorption of food eaten, for example, through excessive use of laxatives. Both techniques can quickly do severe and lasting damage to your health. Further, substance abuse disorders, such as alcoholism, have an extremely high rate of co-occurrence with body image disorders.
While doctors have several competing hypotheses to explain this, the high prevalence of substance use disorders with body image and eating disorders exists, it is significant and it means that in addition to the bodily harm you will suffer from your body image disorder and associated illness, you will also be more likely to experience dangerous symptoms from alcohol abuse.
Also, body image disorders also frequently present with other mental health disorders, further increasing the harm you may experience. In fact, some doctors believe both body image disorders and substance use disorders originate from an underlying mental health disorder. Professional medical and psychiatric help will be required to recover safely from all these illnesses, especially when they co-occur.
SYMPTOMS OF A BODY IMAGE DISORDER
Body image and eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, have many visible, severe and dangerous symptoms which require immediate treatment to avoid potentially life-long damage to your body and death. These symptoms include:
- severely restricting food intake by dieting or fasting
- relentless exercising
- bingeing and self-induced vomiting to expel food
- a preoccupation with food, which may include cooking elaborate meals for others but not eating the food you’ve prepared
- constantly skipping meals or refusing food
- denying you are hungry or making excuses not to eat
- restrict intake to only a few “safe” low—calorie or low-fat foods
- following rigid meal or eating rituals, for example, spitting food out after chewing
- avoiding eating in public
- lying about how much food you’ve eaten
- fearing to gain weight that may include weighing or measuring your body repeatedly
- frequently checking in the mirror and believing you see flaws
- complaining about being fat or having excess fat in certain areas
- constantly wearing multiple layers of concealing clothing
- a general lack of emotion
- social withdrawal
- reduced interest in sex
- a preoccupation with your body shape and weight
- constantly fearing to gain weight
- feeling unable to control your eating behavior
- eating until you feel uncomfortable or feel pain
- binging where you eat more in one sitting than during a normal meal
- forcing yourself to vomit to keep from gaining weight
- missing laxatives, diuretics or enemas to control your weight
- restricting your calorie intake or avoiding certain foods between binges
- using dietary supplements or herbal products excessively to lose weight or keep from gaining weight
Because of the severe symptoms of both AN and BN, you will want to seek professional medical treatment immediately if you suspect you have a problem with either disease. If you also suffer from substance use, it makes it all the more imperative for you to seek qualified help.
THE CHALLENGES OF TREATING BODY IMAGE DISORDER AND ADDICTION
Body image disorders, other mental disorders and substance abuse have a powerful relationship, and you may often experience all three together. Some doctors believe that body image and substance use are disorders are symptomatic of a third disorder, while others believe that an inherited family history of substance abuse may lead to higher likelihoods of developing body image and eating disorders as you grow older. Whatever the pathway to your substance use and co-occurring body image disorder, the confluence of symptoms can devastate your body, and the presence of both illnesses will inevitably exacerbate one another. Alcohol, functioning as a depressant, can increase the severity of your body image symptoms which can then, in turn, lead to increased drinking. The safest way out of this vicious cycle that will protect your emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing is individualized addiction and mental health treatment.
HOW AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO THE RECOVERY CAN HELP YOU HEAL YOUR BODY IMAGE DISORDER AND ADDICTION
On-going substance abuse can undermine any addiction or mental health treatment you might receive. The symptoms of your substance abuse will continue to fuel the symptoms of your other illnesses, lower your inhibitions and compromise your decision-making abilities which will lead to continued problems with your body image or other mental health issues.
An individualized treatment program must first deal with your substance use and ensure you complete your detox. This style of treatment program does so by closely examining your history and medical issues and understanding you as a person. By treating you instead of a generic disease or set of symptoms, you can have a higher assurance that you, together with your support teams, can understand and directly deal with the underlying causes of your substance use.
The same comprehensive protocols will also guide your subsequent addiction and mental health treatment. You will learn many methods and techniques to combat the specific issues you suffer from, while at the same time enjoying the compassionate care and support of the medical, psychiatric and care-taking staff during your stay at the Serenity Oaks Wellness Center.
Compassionate care during your transition is not an optional luxury but a necessary part of your healing because, as a result, you will begin to re-appreciate your value and re-build your self-confidence. An individualized will significantly improve your chances of overcoming your substance abuse long-term and the highest assurance of healing from your body image disorder because it treats every aspect of your illness personally, directly and humanely.