A woman lies on her couch feeling sick from drunkorexia symptoms
Published On: Dec 2, 2020|Categories: Eating Disorder Information|

The term “drunkorexia” isn’t found as often as other disordered eating issues such as binge eating and anorexia nervosa, but it is still just as worrisome. This mix of disordered eating and alcohol can lead to many dangerous side effects, and both concerning mental and physical health conditions.

What is drunkorexia?

Drunkorexia is actually a slang definition used to describe a disordered behavior where the individual restricts their calorie consumption throughout the day because of a planned drinking binge that evening. In other words, drunkorexia is the combination of substance use disorder with bulimia or anorexia. This restriction of food, or purging following food intake, is the compensation for the amount of calories consumed during a drinking binge.

Drunkorexia is highly dangerous, especially for those who have a smaller amount of body fat or those on medication. Without food in the body to absorb the alcohol, it is easy to quickly become severely intoxicated.

Despite the well known risks associated with drinking on an empty stomach, about 30% of college-aged women associate dieting and binge drinking as a means of weight loss. That is, they’re aware of the amount of calories and sugar in a mixed drink and diet throughout the day to avoid weight fluctuations. However, this is both an unsustainable and unhealthy method of maintaining or even losing weight.

What does drunkorexia do to your body?

In order to keep our bodies healthy, energy levels up and immune system firing, we need to make sure we’re eating a balanced diet and not just focusing on how many calories we’re consuming (because not all calories are bad). This is just one of the dangers of drunkorexia – while cutting back calories to make room for an alcohol binge later may seem like a creative way of monitoring caloric intake, it has many harmful side effects.

These include:

  • Stomach issues – Skipping food for alcohol can lead to your digestive system malfunctioning. Bloating, throat damage from vomiting and constipation are not uncommon for this disordered eating pattern;
  • Increased severity of alcohol side effects – Because drunkorexia exacerbates the effects of alcohol, the dangers from intoxication increase. Alcohol poisoning, impaired coordination, poor decision making skills and increased likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors are all likely;
  • Long term effects of substance use disorder – Those who binge drink run the risk of experiencing brain damage, liver disease, cardiac problems and type 2 diabetes the longer the habit lasts;
  • Nutrient deficiencies – Eating less decreases the amount of nutrients your body takes in, while alcohol increases the need for said nutrients. This co-occurring lack of and increased need for vitamins and minerals can lead to problems such as brittle hair and nails, increased likelihood of acne, dehydration and dizziness.

Additionally, this eating and drinking pattern may increase the risk of dangerous situations, like driving under the influence and promiscuous behaviors, as well as the possibility of dementia later in life.

What are symptoms of drunkorexia?

If you suspect that a loved one has drunkorexia, or are concerned it may be developing in your own life, there are a number of noticeable symptoms. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Not eating a lot (if anything) during the day, and binge drinking at night;
  • Mentioning stomach and digestive issues, such as constipation and pain;
  • Bad breath and dental problems related to vomiting;
  • Calorie counting;
  • Overexercising;
  • Constantly dieting;
  • Mood swings as a result of poor nutritional intake and possibly even guilt for calories consumed in a binge;
  • Being sick during a drinking binge, but then continuing to drink in order to maintain intoxication.

While one of these symptoms may not be an indicator of drunkorexia, a combination of these red flags could indicate either the formation or existence of this disordered eating and drinking lifestyle.

How do I get help for drunkorexia?

Many different treatment options exist for drunkorexia, including intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization, and inpatient or residential treatment programs. Which one is best depends on numerous factors, such as the severity of the case, age and gender. The proper level of care will be determined through an intake assessment in order to determine how best to get you back on track with proper eating habits.

If you think you or a loved one may have drunkorexia, the therapists at Seeds of Hope are here to talk with you. Whether you’re ready to enter treatment or simply want to gather more information from an informed counselor, you can reach out today. Contact Seeds of Hope by calling 610-595-5381.

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