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Eating Disordered Behavior and Binge Drinking

Binge Drinking - an eating disorder behavior?The combination of binge drinking and eating disorders is nothing new. In recent years, health professionals have studied the phenomenon of individuals who restrict their caloric intake prior to consuming excessive quantities of alcohol. Not surprisingly, college students represent a significant percentage of individuals engaging in this behavior.

The reasons for limiting calories in preparation of heavy drinking vary from wanting to avoid gaining weight to wanting to experience the effects of alcohol more quickly and with greater intensity. No matter what the explanation, the intersection of eating disordered behavior with binge drinking is a serious health concern.

For the most part, college students who purposely eat less (or nothing) in order to drink more, may not have been diagnosed with an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or compulsive overeating disorder. However, their actions do fall under the category of eating disordered behavior and can lead to physical and mental health problems.

Research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse suggests that individuals with alcohol or substance abuse problems are 11 times more likely to have eating disorders than the general population. In addition, eating disordered individuals are 5 times more likely to abuse alcohol and other illicit substances. Such alarming statistics highlight the importance of remaining vigilant regarding the behavior of our youth, especially when alcohol and eating disordered behavior is involved.

Below are some facts about the phenomena of eating disordered behavior and binge drinking:

  • Nearly 40% of college students admit to binge drinking
  • Binge drinking behavior involves elevating the blood alcohol concentration .08 or above
  • Over 90% of excessive drinkers in the United States admit to binge drinking in the previous month
  • Approximately 90% of underage drinking in the United States is binge drinking

Although it is not a recognized psychological term, “drunkorexia,” the phenomena of limiting food in preparation of binge drinking, is rampant on college campuses. Parents, educators, health professionals and students alike must be aware that this behavior can have catastrophic physiological and emotional repercussions.

Professional intervention and treatment for eating disorders and substance abuse issues is essential for recovery. If you think you or someone your know is struggling with an eating disorder or chemical abuse problem (or both), seek care from a therapist or treatment center that specializes in these issues.

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