Posted by: cindy | November 19, 2008

Drunkorexia is a Dangerous Eating Disorder



“I probably drank a six-pack of beer, a bottle of wine or anywhere in between in a night”, Denise reports. “If I didn’t eat anything in a day, and I drank, I feel skinnier”.

Denise is a senior at a state college and during most of her years in college she was engaged in a deadly lifestyle. During the day, she restricted her calories severely allowing herself to over-indulge in alcohol at night.  


Drunkorexia is a new slang term to describe this practice of restricting food and indulging in alcohol.  Alcohol contains calories, the thinking goes, and too many calories lead to weight gain. The new and dangerous question young people are asking themselves is, “Should I eat food or drink alcohol?”.  Those who are active in drunkorexia have decided that alcohol is more important.

Denise started drinking when she was 14 or 15 and started restricting calories even younger at 13. By age 17, she was admitted to the hospital by her parents driven by the fear of her alcohol use. At the time, she weighed 97 pounds, much to low for her 5’5” height.  “I definitely didn’t eat when doing alcohol and drugs because if I didn’t eat, the high was stronger”.

A 2003 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University showed that those with an eating disorder are 5 times more likely to abuse alcohol or illicit drugs than those without.  Drunkorexia is actually two problems at once, alcohol abuse and an eating disorder, a tragic setup.  To avoid food, one has to be desperate to avoid weight gain.  But an alcohol addiction would demand to be fed even though it would supply feared calories.  The emotional stress for a person in this position would be enormous not to mention the physical effects on their bodies.

Out of control, embarrassment and shame are words used by Denise to describe her past drunkorexia lifestyle.  “I’ve blacked out, thrown up and humiliated myself in public”.

While it may seem like an easy fix to simply eat healthy and stop drinking, anyone who has suffered from an addiction or eating disorder can quickly assure people: it’s not that simple.

For Denise, it took her family’s intervention and her admission into an extended care program, it was the one place she could go that accepted her insurance. During the day, she and other men and women, attended day treatment for eating disorders.  She learned how to cope with her negative feelings about her weight and appearance.  Denise says “Before treatment, I felt fat, ugly and undesirable, most of the time. While in treatment I learned how to really look at myself and that I am beautiful just the way that I am”.  In the evenings, she lived in a safe, supportive residence with the other patients. She said the real healing took place in her room where she and her roommate would talk for hours each night about everything they had learned during the day.  When I first arrived at treatment, I hated it and didn’t want to stay but my parents made it clear to me I didn’t have the option to leave.  60 days later, I didn’t want to leave and cried as I said my goodbyes. 


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