A sometimes deadly cross between alcoholism and eating disorders, what’s been termed “drunkorexia” is increasingly common among college girls. These body-image-obsessed young women often fail to realize the risks they’re taking by starving themselves all day in order to reserve calories for drinking at night. In Part 1, we looked at the allure of this dangerous trend; now, we’ll look at exactly why it’s such a problem.
The Immediate Risks of Drunkorexia
While there isn’t an exact equation citing the health risks of drunkorexia in comparison to alcoholism and traditional eating disorders, it seems the relationship is more than that of adding the two together; it’s more like exponential. While the number of calories a person would get from food can be achieved through alcohol, intoxicating beverages lack the nutritional value of food.
In addition, when a person doesn’t have any food in the stomach, blood alcohol levels are even higher than they would be after binge drinking on a full stomach. The combination of malnutrition and alcohol combine to throw off blood sugar levels, creating a strong state of intoxication as well as a more significant hangover.
The immediate risks include higher levels of impaired judgement, which commonly lead to DUIs, unprotected sex, and sexual assault. Even more significantly, dieters who drink heavily have a heightened chance of needing treatment for alcohol overdose.
The Long-Term Consequences of Drunkorexia
Long-range health-related consequences often include malnutrition, ulcers, and gastritis, as well as increased risk of liver disease, diabetes, and dementia. There are psychological consequences, too. As one recovering drunkorexic young woman puts it, “Being drunk and making choices you’d otherwise think twice about opens up the floodgates to anxiety, depression and isolation. It opens up the doors to larger eating disorder manipulations, which are isolating and exhausting.” She explains that when you’re going through life constantly focusing on body image, “you start to lose control over your priorities. Throw in alcohol and those babies are tossed right out the door.”
Some mental health professionals have a different take on the relationship between drunkorexia and psychiatric disorders: “alcoholism and eating disorders frequently co–occur and often co–occur in the presence of other psychiatric and personality disorders.” Since drunkorexia isn’t technically a diagnosis, the issues of alcoholism, anorexia, and bulimia need to be separately addressed, but the common thread of addictive behaviors is in play, either way. Often, multiple addictions co-occur, and patients engage in one addiction when another is less readily available.
As parents or mentors to young people, we need to do more than warn them about the dangers involved in these behaviors; we also need to help them put their finger on the root of their struggles, which they’re tempted to deal with in unhealthy ways like starving themselves and drinking alcohol. As we help them understand their personality tendencies and manage difficult emotions in healthy, biblical ways, we’ll save them from many other potential problems in life and equip them to be shining lights in an increasingly dark and hopeless world.