Tips for Parents
There's a New Disorder in Town: Drunkorexia
While it's not an official medical term, it is a troubling phenomenon rearing its ugly head on college campuses. Typically, "drunkorexics" are described as college-age binge drinkers, in many cases women, who engage in behaviors associated with eating disorders to offset the calories they consume when drinking.
According to Dr. Tamara Pryor, the clinical director of the Eating Disorder Center of Denver, college students receiving treatment have admitted they often numb their pain by drinking alcohol. Some also drink to calm down before eating or to ease the anxiety of having eaten a meal, reported The New York Times. Others use alcohol as their only sustenance in a day. And those with bulimia have a hard time regulating what goes into their body so they consume alcohol like they do food: they can't stop and then they purge.
"Both disorders are behaviors that are glorified and reinforced," Dr. Bunnell told Coloradodaily.com. "Binge drinking is almost cool and hip, and losing weight and being thin is a cultural imperative for young women in America. Mixing both is not surprising, and it has reached a tipping point in terms of public awareness."
Lauren Harte, president of the Panhellenic Council at Lehigh University (PA), describes it like this: "I can understand how drunkorexia develops in women at Lehigh and with college women in general. It combines the two biggest pressures that we feel — being skinny and being 'that fun girl' out at parties" (Thebrownandwhite.com).
A Dangerous Mix
According to some, the connection between bulimia and substance abuse is a field that has been neglected in the research world.
The treatment for these two disorders can be tough too, since the response to addiction is abstinence, but that's certainly not the case when food is involved. "We're trying to get our patients to find effective behaviors and life skills," said Dr. Kevin Wandler, the vice president for medical services at Remuda Ranch, which addresses both eating disorders and addiction at its facilities in Arizona and Virginia. "Eating normally would be an effective behavior, but it's easier to give up alcohol and drugs because you never need it again," Wandler said. "If your drug is food, that's a challenge."
Sources: Thebrownandwhite.com, 9/8/09; Coloradodaily.com, 8/10/09; The New York Times, 3/2/08
Prepared for our institution by PaperClip Communications, www.paper-clip.com.
Copyright 2006, 125 Paterson Ave., Little Falls, NJ 07424