Skip to main content

Bulimia And Addiction In Women

woman with eating disorder and a scale

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) lists both bulimia and addiction, respectively, as complex brain disorders. While each are comprised of distinct characteristics, if left untreated both, individually or together, can result in significant long and short term consequences and in some cases death. It is highly common for addiction and bulimia to co occur. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), women who struggle with either an addiction or bulimia are four times more likely to develop the other condition. The SAMSHA further reports that approximately 26 percent develop an addiction to illegal drugs, 33.7 percent of people struggling with bulimia develop an alcohol use disorder and 36.8 percent develop any substance use disorder. Eating disorders, specifically bulimia and addiction have many similarities, significant overlap, and the combination of both manifests far more in the female population than the male population. 


Bulimia nervosa, most commonly referred to as bulimia, is one of the three most commonly diagnosed eating disorders in America. The Mayo Clinic defines bulimia as a “serious eating disorder marked by binging, followed by methods to avoid weight gain.” There are several signs and symptoms that may manifest in a female struggling with bulimia, which can include but are not limited to any combination of the following, provided by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA):

  • Appears uncomfortable eating around others
  • Fear of eating in public or with others
  • Shows unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area
  • Discolored, stained teeth
  • Has calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting
  • Diets frequently
  • Shows extreme concert with body weight and shape
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Non-specific gastrointestinal complaints
  • Sleeping problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Impaired immune system

Bulimia is a seriously, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. The damage that occurs from prolonged malnutrition and the unhealthy cycle of binging and purging can lead to significant short and long-term physiological complications. 


Substance use disorder is characterized by compulsively engaging in external rewarding stimuli without regard for the consequences. It is a brain disorder and is listed as such in the DSM-5. Addiction can wreck havoc in all areas of one’s life. An individual that struggles with addiction will prioritize satisfying her drug cravings above all else, regardless of the negative consequences. The recovery process from both addiction and bulimia will require steadfast commitment. 


Any female that is diagnosed with both bulimia and addiction holds a dual diagnosis. There are specialized substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment programs that are specifically designed to cater to women with dual diagnoses. Attending a dual diagnosis treatment program is highly recommended to anyone diagnosed with more than one mental health disorder, as the treatment of both disorders simultaneously is essential to one’s prolonged recovery. Any dual diagnosis treatment program will offer individualized treatment plans that place equal emphasis on the treatment of both bulimia and addiction. 

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