What Is Drunkorexia?
A few months ago in a blog on dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders, I wrote in passing of a fairly new term called “drunkorexia.” Drunkorexia fits a textbook definition of a dual diagnosis – a substance abuse disorder co-occurring with a mental health disorder – and unfortunately, its prevalence is increasing rapidly. In fact, what was once just a slang term is now becoming alarmingly common. In fact, mental health professionals are trying to get it added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders. For those of you who missed it, drunkorexia refers to the practice of intentionally starving yourself in order to drink more alcohol. However, since this type of behavior is progressive, and since it involves eating disorders (the most fatal of mental health issues) and alcohol (the most widely abused drug in the world), it is well worth taking a closer look.
Why Would Someone Do That?
“Why would someone hold off on food just to drink more? That just sounds like an alcoholic to me.” Speaking as a recovering alcoholic, I can say, yes, that’s true. But it goes deeper than that. One reason is economic. A person might restrict their food to be able to spend more money on alcohol. (I’ve been there.) Another reason would be that alcohol hits you harder when you drink on an empty stomach. (I’ve been there, too.) Altering behavior in order to place alcohol first is without a doubt a sign of alcoholism.
However, a third reason that people engage in this behavior is actually a type of calorie counting. As we all know, alcohol is high in calories. There about 150 calories in a can of beer and about 90 in a shot of vodka. Some drinkers plan ahead to offset these extra calories. They limit food intake in advance in an effort to achieve a particular body image. And this is the realm of eating disorders.
Some Statistics Concerning Drunkorexia
In an article from 2011 when the term, “drunkorexia,” first started gaining traction, The Week mentioned that a University of Missouri study found that 16% of US college students engage in the practice. Furthermore, women were three times more likely to behave in such a manner. However, in a study conducted five years later, researchers found that 8 out of every 10 students involved in the study had engaged in drunkorexic behavior in the preceding three months. The study was open to anyone who drank heavily once in the past 30 days. Considering that, according to a survey by the NIAAA, 2 out of 5 college students report drinking heavily at least once in the past two weeks, drunkorexia is clearly on the rise.
Drunkorexia Affects Men and Women
The University of Missouri study shows that women are three times more likely to engage in drunkorexic behavior. However, the Research Society on Alcoholism study shows that the gender breakdown is actually more complex. Dipali V. Rinker, a professor at the University of Houston states, “While it is clear that college women who drink more are more likely than men to engage in bulimic-type behaviors, and with greater frequency, and to experience more alcohol-related problems as a result of these behaviors, there were no gender differences for engaging in drunkorexia to increase the effects of alcohol or engaging in bulimic-type behaviors to compensate for alcohol-related calories. In some cases, men were more likely to engage in bulimic-type and diet/exercising/calorie-restricted eating behaviors to reduce alcohol-related calories.”
Ocean Recovery in Newport Beach, California treats both women and men with alcohol abuse disorders, eating disorders, and co-occurring disorders like drunkorexia. If you or someone you love is suffering, please don’t hesitate to give us a call today.