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Eating Disorders and Comorbidity – Can Your Eating Disorder Clinic Cope with Dual-diagnosis Care?

It’s rare that an eating disorder isn’t associated with other diseases. For example, eating disorders can occur simultaneously, with individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorder at the same time, or eating disorders can happen in conjunction with other mental illness, such as depression or addiction. When this happens, it’s called comorbidity, and it’s important that any treatment addresses all aspects of the comorbid disorder so that it can tackle all aspects of recovery.

Some of the more common comorbidity that occurs with eating disorders included anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder. Those suffering with anxiety, which can be as mild as feeling nervous or shy to something more severe such as finding normal, everyday behaviors unbearable, can use an eating disorder as a way to manage their anxiety. While it’s unclear as to whether eating disorders can cause anxiety or if anxiety is the root of some eating disorders, it’s important to identify both and manage anxiety in a healthy way.

Studies show that about 83% of people who suffer from eating disorders have some sort of obsessive compulsive tendencies. 37% of people with anorexia have a comorbid obsessive compulsive disorder, and like anxiety, many people use eating disorders as a coping mechanism. With so many reporting comorbid disorders with OCD, it’s becoming a more accepted theory that OCD behaviors commonly predate eating disorders.

It’s also been shown that people suffering with bipolar disorder are much more likely than the general public to suffer from an eating disorder. More commonly, bulimia is associated with those with bipolar disorder, which may be due to the fact that both disorders share common characteristics such as weight problems, the tendency to act rashly and following an established set of rules, however odd the rules may be. Just like people with anorexia or bulimia, bipolar disorder sufferers cycle between episodes of depression and mania.

Treating a comorbid disorder isn’t impossible, it just takes a highly trained recovery center that can not only identify the disorders but also treat them effectively. Understanding the complexities involved with a comorbid disorder may seem overwhelming, so seeking professional help is imperative if you feel like you’re facing one or know someone who is.

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