Skip to Content

Eating Disorders Accompanied by Other Conditions


The pain of an eating disorder is hard enough, but many disordered eaters have underlying conditions as well. Mood disorders, medical conditions, and substance abuse intertwine with eating disorders to present the complicated picture of struggling with multiple conditions.

Mood Disorders

Not every patient develops a mood disorder subsequent to an eating disorder; about half of the patients who meet the criteria for a mood disorder developed that condition before the eating disorder, according to Dr. Kenneth L. Weiner. On the other hand, when a mood disorder develops prior to an eating disorder, the eating disorder can aggravate the symptoms and the two conditions begin to affect each other.

Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mood disorders in eating disorder patients as many patients find that disordered eating relieves the stress associated with the conditions. Depressive symptoms often fluctuate with the state of the eating disorder. On good days, the symptoms seem manageable; while on bad days they threaten to overcome the patient. These symptoms often diminish with increasing treatment as comprehensive eating disorder treatments will address the issues that arise with depression and anxiety as well.

Bipolar Disorder
Most commonly associated with bulimia, bipolar disorder shares several symptoms with that condition. Impulsivity and a preoccupation with weight are common to people suffering from either disorder. The severity of a person’s bipolar symptoms correlates with an increased likelihood of developing bulimia or another eating disorder.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive personalities, most strongly linked to anorexia nervosa, are pervasive in the eating disorder world. Depending on the criteria used, anywhere between 3 and 83 percent of eating disorder patients also present with OCD, according to The overlapping symptoms of both OCD and eating disorders include rigidity, compulsivity, and elaborate rituals surrounding food and exercise.

Medical Conditions

Many medical conditions occur comorbidly with anorexia and bulimia. Starvation and purging can lead to bone disease, gum disease, cardiac complications, gastrointestinal disease and other organ problems. These conditions arise as the result of the eating disorder and can be deadly. Therefore it is very important to treat these conditions as well as the eating disorder.

Substance Abuse

Many people suffering from eating disorders hide from their pain and guilt by abusing drugs and alcohol. Anorexics often abuse substances that suppress or depress appetite such as cigarettes, cocaine, caffeine, and diuretics.

Treating both the eating disorder and the comborbid condition is vital to a successful recovery. Medical and psychiatric doctors must work together to provide the best treatment plan for those suffering with eating disorders.