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Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse
Eating disorders and substance abuse often go hand in hand. If you are concerned your teen may be struggling with substance abuse or eating disorders you may want to know the facts correlating the two. Keep reading to learn common risk factors and effects of both.
Teens are among the group most vulnerable to both eating disorders and substance abuse, and some teens struggle with both problems. Parents and others who are concerned about a teen should understand some of the connections between eating disorders and substance abuse.
Research seems to show a strong link between eating disorders and substance abuse. According to Social Work Today, up to half of females with an eating disorder also have a substance abuse problem, and over a third of those with a substance abuse problem also have an eating disorder. These numbers are much higher than rates among the general population.
Some facts that may be good to know if parents are concerned about a struggling teen:
The exact cause for the relationship between eating disorders and substance abuse is still unknown, but they share some common risk factors, such as:
Not everyone with the risk factors will develop one or both problems, but they may need extra intervention to deal with the underlying problems before they lead to a destructive behavior.
Some ways to help teens who have or are at risk for eating disorders and substance abuse include:
Treatments for eating disorders and for substance abuse are usually different, but both should start with a visit to a doctor who can help diagnose the problems and recommend treatments. The doctor can treat the health problems associated with these disorders, while a counselor or therapist may help with the psychological issues. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one type of therapy that may help some people with both problems, but it is only one of several types of therapy that may be best for a teen depending on his or her situation.
Sources:Adrienne Ressler, Social Work Today, "Insatiable Hungers: Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse" [online]
Annsley Heidtke, Vanderbuilt University Psychology Department, "Eating Disorders and Substsance Abuse" [online]
SAMHSA's National Mental Health Information Center, "Eating Disorders" [online]
National Eating Disorders Association, "Laxative Abuse" [online]
Related Article: Warning Signs of Eating Disorders >>