Does Alcohol Affect Recovery?: Implications of Alcohol for Eating Disorder Sufferers

There are many factors that may impact an individual who is currently suffering from or has had a previous history of eating disorder problems. This article aims to focus on the implications and risks of both alcohol consumption and misuse in those affected by eating disorders. Key areas to be explored are now listed below.

    • Do eating disorders Increase the risk of alcohol abuse?
    • Dangers of alcohol misuse in eating disorder sufferers
    • Managing alcohol during recovery

Do Eating Disorders Increase the Risk of Alcohol Abuse?

There has been much research undertaken into the connection between eating disorders and the development of both alcohol and drug abuse. Kinoy highlights that up to 20% of adult female sufferers of bulimia may also have alcohol or drug problems. In a high number of cases, those who have suffered with an undiagnosed eating disorder in their teens or 20s later go on to be treated for alcoholism in their 30s and 40s. As identified by Treasure et al. both male and female binge eaters are significantly more likely to suffer alcohol abuse than the general population.

Whats are the Dangers Associated with Alcohol Misuse in Eating disorder Sufferers?

In terms of an anorexia sufferer who may be significantly underweight, the impact of alcohol misuse may be very serious indeed. Alcohol abuse in such cases can quickly lead into dependence or in some cases even toxicity. When an eating disorder is combined with alcohol misuse the individual is placing themselves under significantly increased medical risks. There is a strong likelihood of the sufferer being tempted to reduce food intake to compensate for alcohol consumption which can play havoc with one’s ability to follow a menu plan. Due to the fact that alcohol lowers blood sugar levels and increases hunger there is in turn an increased risk of binging or overeating particularly the following day.

Managing Alcohol During Recovery

While many therapists and health professionals working within the eating disorder field recommend that alcohol is best not to be consumed during periods of illness as well as in recovery, others believe it may have some benefits. Alcohol may indeed in some cases help the sufferer to relax and enable them to cope with eating an increased amount of food. In recovery, it is advisable for the patient to only reintroduce alcohol under the supervision or agreement of one’s treatment team. In terms of weight maintenance, consuming alcohol in moderation or solely at special occasions is unlikely to drastically make a difference, provided one does not opt for high calorie drinks such as liqueurs.

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