When you hear the word addiction, you probably think about heroin or cocaine—not a behavioral addiction, like gambling, gaming, or anorexia. 20 percent of people suffering from anorexia or bulimia die prematurely from complications related to their disorder, including suicide and heart issues. Eating disorders in general produce the highest mortality rate of any category of mental illness.
WHEN IS AN EATING DISORDER AN ADDICTION?
Addiction is defined as a compulsive, habitual behavior that limits our free will. The key word here is “behavior.” Behavior is the driving force behind addiction. For bulimics, the problem is an overconsumption of food. For anorexics, it’s the abstention from food. Emotional eats seek out food for pleasure or calm feeling. All of these activities limit one’s freedom to live normally, because food is a huge part of life, and you can’t just quit it entirely, the way you can quit drugs or alcohol.
DEALING WITH PAIN
Eating disorders have to do with pain management. It’s no surprise that people turn to food, or rigorous dieting—as a means of managing their pain or insecurities. For anorexics and bulimics, these habits offer a sense of control. For emotional eats, food is the only reliable source of joy. These problems, obviously, stem from deeper problems.
What begins as a method of controlling difficult, painful feelings quickly evolves into addiction, if left unabated. In order to understand this addiction, you need to understand this addiction cycle in general.
WHY PEOPLE BECOME ADDICTED
Substance abuse, promiscuity, excessive exercising, gambling, pornography – all behavioral addictions appear attractive, even admirable, at first. They seem to promise exactly what we desire.
DANGER IS REAL
Many view eater disorders as a “safe” addiction since it doesn’t alter the mind or impair or ability to drive a car. Fasting is even considered a virtuous activity in many cultures; this allows the anorexic a false sense of pride for their behavior. It’s not okay to use food for comfort, calming, or distraction on a regular basis. It may seem like the lesser of two evils when compared to substance abuse, but there’s no sense in thinking about addictions this way.
Here at Blueprints, our specialists are trained to deal with the tricky and changing nature of eating disorders in all our individual clients.