Eating Disorders - Eating disorders and other destructive behaviors

Drug Addiction and Alcoholism

It is common for people with eating disorders also to struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. In fact, research shows that one-third of bulimics have a substance-abuse problem, particularly with stimulants (drugs that excite the nervous system) and alcohol. This may stem from the fact that people with eating disorders have difficulty coping with their emotions and use negative means, such as drugs, to mask their problems. Drugs and alcohol provide temporary escapes from reality but, similar to eating disorders, can progress into serious problems that require treatment to overcome. [For more information on drug addiction and alcoholism, see Chapter 14: Habits and Behaviors.]


Self-mutilation is practiced by many eating disorder sufferers. It is also known as self-inflicted violence (SIV) or "cutting." The most common forms of self-mutilation include cutting, burning, head-banging, hitting, and biting oneself. The reasons people self-mutilate stem from an inability to handle overwhelming feelings or a state of emotional numbness. Many sufferers explain that they hurt themselves in order to distract themselves from emotional pain because it is easier to deal with physical pain than to address uncomfortable emotions, such as fear or anger. They may also hurt themselves in order to feel something which gives them an escape from feelings of loneliness. [For more information on self-mutilation, see Chapter 14: Habits and Behaviors.]

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