Eating Disorders and Addiction

At Olympia House rehab, our philosophy emphasizes that our clients and residents are unique individuals. We believe in a rehab experience tailored to your specific needs. Understanding co-occurring disorders is just one part of understanding addiction, and we see the importance of addressing you or a loved one’s eating disorder as part of their holistic recovery.

One of the main misconceptions about eating disorders is that they are just about food and eating. Oftentimes, eating disorders are a complex mask around shame, anxiety, and a need for control that feels almost impossible to remove. The pain linked to an eating disorder may lead to substance addiction. We are committed to treating all your addiction’s underlying causes to ensure a holistic recovery.

Statistics on Eating Disorders And Addiction

Here are some key statistics and facts about eating disorders. Some demonstrate a significant link to addiction and substance use disorder.

  • Anorexia nervosa is a type of eating disorder characterized by under-eating or not eating at all.
  • Bulimia is a type of eating disorder characterized by overeating and then purging.
  • 50% of people with eating disorders also abused alcohol or drugs. This is five times higher than the general population.
  • ⅔ of people who suffer from an eating disorder also suffer from an anxiety disorder
  • More people die from anorexia nervosa than any other eating disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder has the strongest correlation to bulimia

Causes of Eating Disorders and Addiction

Understanding why the anxiety around food is so painful and consuming can be hard for sufferers to understand. At Olympia House rehab, we are committed to sharing our knowledge as practitioners with you to help you maintain a long-term recovery.

What are the causes of eating disorders in relation to addiction? Psychiatric evidence suggests that eating disorders may be masks for painful underlying psychological disorders. Addiction to a substance can sometimes be a “mask for a mask” in this sense. With the likelihood of someone having an anxiety disorder as well as an eating disorder at more than 66%, eating disorders can be understood as a source of anxiety food. The causes of this anxiety are complex, but here are a few that we have seen.


Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can be a very painful disorder. Sometimes eating food one likes can be a comforting experience to relieve symptoms. This can result in binging. If guilt results from binging, purging may happen as a habit, resulting in bulimia. Similarly, after an episode of binging, sufferers may have long periods of not eating to ease their guilt.


People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) often feel obsessive thoughts that lead to impulsive behaviors. When food becomes the center of one’s thoughts, food may become just another one of these obsessions. The pain of this obsession may result in the sufferer avoiding food altogether or impulsively eating and then purging by means of laxatives, vomiting, or over-exercise.

According to The Clinical Process in Psychiatry, an eating disorder can be an addiction itself. Self-image is a huge trigger for eating disorders. When low weight is equated to beauty in a society, sufferers may become obsessed with becoming thin because they want to feel perfect and therefore loved. At Olympia House rehab, we have a deep belief that everyone is beautiful in who they are and the story they have to share with the world.

Finally, specific needs around texture, visual appearance, or taste of food can greatly limit the possibility of eating.


Depression is often diagnosed when a sense of sadness lasts longer than two weeks. Depression may lead someone to not want to live. We all know that food is necessary to live. Sufferers may feel that eating is saying they are ready to really embrace life again. When it doesn’t feel like they are, not eating may result.

In the reverse, eating delicious food can be a very comforting experience. In an attempt to self-medicate, people with depression may eat more food than is needed. When they start feeling full, they may feel guilt around this over-eating and purge.


Finally, sometimes eating disorder sufferers have overcome a terrible event. When someone with an eating disorder also suffers from PTSD, they may have associations around food that remind them of that awful occurrence. They may also attempt to comfort themselves by eating their favorite foods in larger quantities. However, the depression, pain, and guilt that sufferers of PTSD feel in their lives may leave them feeling like they do not want the life-sustaining properties of food. So, they may purge afterward, to maximize comfort while rejecting wellness. We are proud to offer DBT therapy and trauma-group therapy as a treatment these specific issues.

Treatment for Eating Disorders and Addiction

Though this may help explain you or a loved one’s symptoms, your story and struggle is always unique. We want to help you free yourself from the painful cycle of an eating disorder in order to treat your addiction. We offer CBT to help you restructure your thoughts about scarcity, love, and anxiety. We also offer detox services tailored to you, mindfulness training, spiritual support, and activities to treat anxiety. We want to assure you, our food is nourishing, based around a philosophy of food as a tool to grow your greater wellness. However, we know the importance of patience in your treatment for eating disorders and addiction.

We see the complex link between an eating disorder and addiction. Let our community of patience, understanding, and evidence-based treatment serve you. We serve many locations near you. Call Olympia House at (888) 795-1965.