Skip to main content
anorexic woman on a bed

Anorexia, a type of eating disorder, and addiction, also known as substance use disorder, are both types of behavioral disorders involving compulsive behaviors. As such, there is significant overlap between the two disorders, and furthermore it is not uncommon for an individual struggling with substance use disorder to have an eating disorder as comorbidity. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) asserts that women who struggle with either addiction or an eating disorder (including anorexia) are four times more likely to develop the other condition. According to SAMHSA, nearly 14 percent of women struggle with both anorexia and an addiction. The recovery process from both substance use disorder and anorexia requires steadfast commitment and in order to remain on the path of recovery, in most cases a complete shift of one’s way of living. Understanding the nuances that pertain to each disorder will help to further understand the deep connection between anorexia and addiction. 


The Mayo Clinic defines anorexia as “an eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of weight.” Restricting one’s food and caloric intake can lead to severely detrimental side effects, and if left untreated can be deadly. There are a variety of signs and symptoms that can manifest as a result of anorexia, which can include the following, as provided by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Thin appearance
  • Insomnia
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Not making expected developmental weight gains
  • Dizziness and/ or fainting
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Fatigue
  • Thinning, brittle hair
  • Absence of menstruation
  • Dry and/ or yellowish skin
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Excessively exercising

Every individual is different and may present with any combination of the above examples when struggling with anorexia. When in recovery, it is not uncommon for a person to turn to drugs and/ or alcohol as a means of self-medication. This, in turn can lead to further physiological damage and result in the development of substance use disorder. 


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) refer to substance use disorder as a complex brain disorder that is characterized by continuously engaging in rewarding stimuli without regard for the ensuing of negative consequences. Addiction will affect all areas of one’s life, as he or she will prioritize satisfying a drug craving above all else. Individuals that struggle with addiction often have distorted thinking, behavior and body functions. Habitually abusing drugs and/ or alcohol will affect the way one’s brain functions, as one’s body becomes increasingly accustomed to function with the presence of the substance in its system. It is not uncommon for an individual struggling with an addiction to experience relationship challenges, negative physiological effects, financial strain, run into legal complications, lack personal hygiene, and an inability to maintain steady employment. Any individual that struggles with addiction and anorexia should seek treatment at a specialized dual diagnosis treatment program. This will ensure the program is fully able to accommodate all nuanced needs related to the treatment of both disorders.  

For Information and Support 

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous, and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

Back to top