Addictions and eating disorders are often co-occurring. Sometimes food is the thing one may feel most control over during periods of anxiousness and vulnerability in recovery from alcohol and other drugs. Eating disorders and body image issues which were never present or obvious in the past can also develop while in rehab. As maladaptive behaviors in relation to substance abuse are uncovered and discarded, new coping strategies, such as stringent dieting, compulsive overeating, or binging and purging may take their place.
While many of those who struggling with eating disorders and body image issues are women, it can be even more difficult for the minority of men facing some of the same issues to seek help. The process of recovery from eating disorder and body image issues may take some time. New and different coping styles must be developed which may include learning to tolerate new and painful emotions, acceptance of body shape or size, as well as paying attention to when one is actually hungry or full.
Most times, eating disorders are identified during evaluation when a person is just entering a treatment program during initial intake and evaluation. Still other times these issues may come to light through the skilled observation of therapists and clinical staff at a rehabilitation facility. An individual’s eating habits may be observed or staff may notice hearing negative comments about the food at the facility or about body image in particular. Individual and group sessions with the client may then focus on conversation that centers on body image. Learning to see one’s self in a more positive light, while avoiding negative self-talk about the body or food, is a start. The adoption of new, healthier coping strategies and attitudes can become key to recovery from eating disorders.
As in other addictions, causal factors which may lead to the formation of eating disorders and body image issues can be genetic, related to impulse control disturbances, perfectionism and control issues, childhood trauma and sexual abuse. Television and media may also play a role in a culture where many people are afraid of being perceived as ‘fat’. Misguided but well-intentioned family members may place focus or frequently comment on a child’s body in the context of promoting good health or eating habits. Many parts of the country have recovery groups for eating disorders, such as Overeaters Anonymous (O.A.), which focuses on issues like binge eating, anorexia, and/or bulimia. If you suspect that you may be developing an eating disorder, in addition to substance abuse problems, you’d be wise to pick a treatment facility that can treat both disorders.