Double Damage: Teenage Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A seventy-three-page report that was released by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University revealed that half of individuals who suffer from eating disorders also abuse alcohol and illicit drugs. The study, aptly titled Food for Thought: Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders, is the first research of its kind that was aiming to find any significant correlation between eating disorders and substance abuse.

Eating disorders are gaining grounds as a common problem for teenagers today. Ranging from teen bulimia, to teen anorexia, to teen obesity, these disorders are becoming detrimental to young people’s health and over-all well-being. Though some of these disorders stem from hormonal imbalance, some are products of mental disorders associated with depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. Some of these disorders can cause serious health problems in teens that would require long-term treatment.

Compounding the damage done by weight issues is alcohol and drug abuse. Going back to the research findings of the study aforementioned, up to thirty-five percent of alcohol or drug abusers also have eating disorders. This is a significant statistic that we should be concerned about. With the already damaging health effects that eating disorders can cause, added effects that are caused by alcoholism and drug abuse is therefore considerably destructive.

Some of the risk factors of these dual disorders are unhealthy peer norms and social pressure. With the way looks and personalities are packaged by the media, young people are often misled into pushing themselves to the limits, often resulting to eating disorders. Susceptibility to messages from advertising and entertainment media has also been known to cause unfavorable effects to the minds of teens. Unhealthy parental behaviors coupled with an ongoing battle against depression and anxiety is also a factor that could be blamed.

When ignored or overlooked, these problems could be life-threatening to young people. Teenagers can become socially isolated, difficult to handle and show self-destructive signs like self-harm and possibly even suicide. They could suffer short or long term effects like chronic diseases with high relapse rates as a result to these prolonged and untreated disorders.

Dual disorders in teenagers are serious issues that need full attention today. It is very important not to overlook the significant link between eating disorders and substance abuse, so treatment options can be geared into solving these co-existing conditions.