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Understanding The Connection Between Eating Disorders and Addictions

By HERWriter
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Dr. Carolyn Ross observed through her medical practice that many patients were crumbling due to stress and unhealthy lifestyle habits. She began to look into complementary and alternative therapies, learning about the use of herbs and supplements.

She later opened three women's centers offering complementary and alternative therapies. When her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Dr. Ross studied with Dr. Andrew Weil.
Dr. Ross talks about the differences and similarities between eating disorders and addictions.

Dr. Ross:
Well, eating disorders are very much related to addictions of all kinds and also to mood disorders, but let’s just talk first about addictions. So, about 8 to 20% of people with anorexia also have chemical dependency issues, whether it be alcohol or other substances. An even higher percentage of individuals with bulimia or binge eating disorder also have problems with drug and alcohol abuse or dependence.

So why does that happen? How are those two related? Well there are a number of different reasons. Some of them have to do with what the purpose is that the addiction is serving and many people feel that depression may be the underlying reason why eating disorders and substance use disorders go hand-in-hand or are co-occurring, as we say.

As well, many people with both substance use disorders and eating disorders have a history of a trauma or abuse in their lives and this is another common reason why those go together. So, if you have one, it’s likely that someone in your family has had either depression, chemical dependency, or an eating disorder. So there is a familial risk as well between those disorders.

About Dr. Ross, M.D., M.P.H.:
Dr. Carolyn Ross, M.D., M.P.H., completed her undergraduate degree in Modern Foreign Languages at Purdue University and worked as a full-time mother of her two older sons before returning to school to complete her pre-med requirements. She then went to the University of Michigan Medical School.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.