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“Hangxiety” and “Drunkorexia”? Here’s what you need to know

Eating disorders and alcohol use disorder (AUD) are serious mental health conditions, that can greatly impact a person's physical health and wellbeing. Understanding the nuances of these disorders and how they can impact you is crucial for effective treatment and recovery.


Young man in sleepwear suffering from headache in morning

Across the UK we have seen an increase of excessive alcohol intake with disordered eating patterns, which is now often being referred to as “drunkorexia”. This term describes behaviours including skipping meals, excessively exercising and purging food as a way to negate the calories consumed from drinking alcohol.


Additionally, a hangover symptom known as "hangxiety" is becoming more widespread among young adults. This term refers to the intense anxiety and negative emotions experienced after an episode of heavy drinking. In people living with an eating disorder/disordered eating, their relationship with food can worsen these feelings.


For those struggling with alcohol use and disordered eating, resources on how to moderate drinking are increasing in demand.


Understanding eating disorders and their impact


People with eating disorders are severely concerned about their body weight and shape. This can lead to serious mental and physical health consequences. The most common types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.


Anorexia Nervosa


Anorexia describes a condition where someone is afraid of gaining weight and has a distorted perception of their body. This means that even if they are underweight, they may believe they are over-weight. This leads to extreme food restriction and excessive weight loss. The physical health risks associated with anorexia include malnutrition, as well as issues with bone and heart health. Psychologically, it can lead to isolation, severe anxiety, depression, and increased risk of suicide.


Bulimia Nervosa


Bulimia is where someone is stuck in a cycle of binge eating followed by purging behaviours such as vomiting, excessive use of laxatives, or excessive exercise. People often associate this disorder with feelings of shame and loss of control during binge episodes. Physically, bulimia can cause electrolyte imbalances, problems with your gut health, and dental issues. Mentally, it contributes to significant emotional distress and comorbid mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.


Binge-Eating Disorder


Binge-eating disorder is when a person eats a large amount of food quickly, usually until they feel uncomfortable. This disorder involves consuming excessive amounts of food in a short period of time. Unlike bulimia, individuals with binge-eating disorder do not regularly engage in purging behaviours. This disorder can lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart problems and is often associated with low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.


Understanding alcohol use disorder and its link to eating disorders


Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic condition where people struggle to control their drinking, even when it causes them harm. Individuals with eating disorders may use alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with negative emotions, while those with AUD might develop disordered eating patterns as a result of their drinking habits.


Research indicates that people with eating disorders are more likely to develop AUD and vice versa.


When a person is living with both an eating disorder and AUD, treatment becomes more complex. Both disorders share common risk factors, including genetic links, environmental influences, and underlying mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.


Integrated Treatment Approaches


Given the intertwined nature of eating disorders and AUD, integrated treatment approaches are essential for effective recovery. Combining therapies that address both conditions simultaneously can improve outcomes and provide comprehensive care.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a widely used treatment for both eating disorders and AUD. and this type of therapy helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours associated with their conditions. CBT can reduce symptoms and promote long-term recovery by changing the way in which people perceive and cope with their problems.


Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)


Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) is a type of talking therapy that is based on CBT but has been adapted for people who feel emotions very intensely. DBT is particularly effective for individuals affected by both eating disorders and AUD. It focuses on building skills in four key areas: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. Learning these skills can help people control their feelings, reduce harmful behaviours, and improve their relationships, which can help them with recovery.


Dr Divina Pillay headshot

Dr Divina Pillay, Consultant Psychiatrist, emphasises the importance of holistic and personalised treatment plans. She states, "Understanding the unique experiences of each individual is crucial in treating people living with both an eating disorder and alcohol use disorder. An integrated approach that addresses the psychological, emotional and physical aspects of these conditions can lead to more effective and sustainable recovery outcomes."


The Journey to Recovery

The relationship between eating disorders and alcohol intake is complex and requires a nuanced understanding for effective treatment. By recognising the relationship between these conditions and using integrated therapeutic approaches, our staff at Schoen Clinic UK can better support individuals on their journey to recovery. With the right combination of therapies and expert guidance, it is possible to achieve lasting recovery and improved quality of life.


Schoen Clinic Chelsea dedicates itself to providing quick access and comprehensive healing for individuals struggling with eating disorders and alcohol abuse.


Get in touch today for expert support from our team at Schoen Clinic Chelsea.


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