Drunkorexia is not an official medically recognized term, but it is a real phenomenon that medical experts are seeing more and more. Basically, drunkorexia is exactly what it sounds like: It’s the combination of eating disorder behaviors with alcoholism or binge drinking. Because both types of illnesses are dangerous and potentially life-threatening, combining the two raises serious issues. Alcoholism makes the body more likely to react negatively to eating disorders, and eating disorder behaviors make the body more prone to dangerous alcohol-related consequences.
Forms of Drunkorexia
1. Compensating for alcohol calories: Many types of alcoholic beverages can be quite high in calories, and anyone already prone to eating disorders is likely to be well-aware of this. And if someone has, say, bulimia, he or she may be tempted to purge to get rid of these calories.
2. Alcohol as replacement for food: While alcohol can be high in calories, it tends to be lighter than food. As a result, some people with anorexia or bulimia compensate for their under-eating by consuming alcohol, which diminishes feelings of hunger.
3. Morning-after binge eating: On mornings after a heavy drinking session, some people with eating disorders will go on a huge eating binge to combat the hangover effects. In some cases, this tends to lead to feelings of guilt, followed by purging.
4. Double binging: For some people with drunkorexia, food binges and alcohol binges often go together. When the person is under a lot of stress or is experiencing emotional difficulties, binging on both food and alcohol may be a way to help forget their problems.
A Problem at College
Drunkorexia is especially prevalent on college campuses, which have always been hotbeds for both eating disorders and binge drinking. We tend to view drinking as a more-or-less normal part of the college experience, but what we forget is that there is a certain percentage of the population who, for whatever reason, is not capable of limiting their alcohol consumption. Some college kids can drink on the weekends and be fine the rest of the time, but others, who are more prone to alcoholism, tend to have trouble stopping.
Meanwhile, college is also a time when young people are coming into their own and reevaluating who they want to be and how they want to look. That’s the major reason why eating disorders frequently occur in college. Many young people want to achieve the beauty ideal as quickly as possible, so they resort to self-destructive behaviors.
When seeking treatment for drunkorexia, the most important thing is for the sufferer to receive care for both sides of the disorder. Because the two may be deeply intertwined, neglecting to treat one side of the problem may cause it to return later on with a vengeance. That’s why the sufferer needs to speak up and be honest with his or her doctor about both problems. It’s also good to have family involvement, to assure that the treatment professionals are providing complete care.