SOURCE: Caring Online

April 13, 2012 06:00 ET

Eating Disorder Sufferers Often Turn to Drugs and Alcohol, Require Substance Abuse Treatment, Advises Caring Online

EDMONDS, WA--(Marketwire - Apr 13, 2012) - Almost half of people who struggle with an eating disorder also abuse drugs or alcohol. Anyone battling both an eating disorder and an addiction should seek out a health care provider who is prepared to tackle both of these serious issues together, recommends Caring Online, a website that offers education and support for eating disorder sufferers and their loved ones.

Treating substance abuse has historically been given a higher priority among mental health professionals than treatment for eating disorders. A patient's anorexia or bulimia was often a secondary consideration to be dealt with after her addiction problem was addressed. As understanding of eating disorders has progressed, however, researchers and clinicians have come to regard them as similar to addictions. Commonalities between eating disorders and addictions include:

  • Mood-altering effects
  • Secretive, compulsive and ritualistic behaviors resulting in social isolation
  • Complex origins involving biological, psychological, familial, social and spiritual factors
  • Reinforcement by unhealthy messages from peers and the media
  • Association with emotional pain, stress or trauma
  • Activation of similar biochemical processes in the "brain reward system"
  • Possible irreversible consequences, including death
  • A need for intensive therapy and counseling

"Eating disorders and substance abuse are so interconnected when they occur in the same individual that they can't effectively be treated separately," says Dr. Gregory Jantz, an eating disorder specialist who operates Caring Online. "When a client exhibits both disordered eating behavior and addiction behavior, a therapist or treatment center should explore and address both issues simultaneously."

Dr. Jantz says that the philosophy of "whole-person care," is ideally suited to help people dealing with multiple life challenges. The whole-person approach is a treatment method that takes into account all aspects of a client's life -- medical, emotional, mental, psychological, social and spiritual.

Dr. Jantz directs The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, a clinic and residential treatment facility in Edmonds, Washington. Dr. Jantz founded The Center in 1985 to provide whole-person care for eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating and binge eating. In addition to eating disorder treatment, The Center offers help for addictions, depression, anxiety disorders, trauma and recovery from abuse.

For eating disorder news, self-assessment tests and other resources, visit

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