Home Health The Link Between Eating Disorders and Addiction

The Link Between Eating Disorders and Addiction


Eating disorders and addiction are both very serious conditions with severe consequences on the health of the person, but they also resemble one another a lot. Whether this is coincidence or correlation depends on a case-by-case basis, but overall, the commonalities between the two are worth noting enough to establish a link.

Eating disorders are an obsessive form of preoccupation with food which often ties in with the personal body image of the person and negatively impacts their everyday life. According to substancerehabilitation.com, “It is a psychological condition with severe physical symptoms that are detrimental to both mental health and general well-being.”

Mental and Physical Health

The quoted excerpt above from Substance Rehabilitation, though written originally about eating disorders, can also be applied to the way addiction works. This is one of the similarities between the two: the way they impact the mindset and the body of the person struggling.

People go into deeper depression and anxiety over their eating disorder/addiction. Their mental health severely deteriorates, and these people typically find it hard to set any priorities outside their eating disorder/addiction. This is because these problems are so innately consuming that it’s very hard to have time to do other things.

Quite obviously, eating disorders and addictions both impact the body similarly: malnourishment. Besides that, they make the human body susceptible to many illnesses and diseases because the immune system takes a direct hit and becomes extremely weak too.

Relationship With Food/Substances

Eating disorders and addictions to substances typically begin in the same way: small. They start small and harmless, and then they spiral beyond the control of the person who is going through the disorder/addiction.

People with eating disorders have a very extreme relationship with their food. Depending on the sort of disorder they have, they will either omit the food out, restrict, or binge then use some technique to get rid of the food (laxative/purging). Their preoccupation with their eating habits typically becomes the centre of their life and the most important aspect of it.

This is similar to people with addictions, too. Whether it’s alcohol or drugs, the person struggling frequently has their entire life revolving around their addiction. They sometimes have a strict schedule for how regularly they need their substance, and if they don’t get it, sometimes withdrawal symptoms may begin to show.

Increasing Extremities

Both eating disorders and addictions only get worse with time if people are not given the help they deserve. With eating disorders, the “goals” that people set for themselves for losing weight or having smaller measurements continue to get more and more extreme, leading to an increasingly unhealthy diet. Mostly, people with eating disorders are gravely malnourished because they are so particular about what they eat and/or how they eat and when they eat.

This is a pattern seen in addictions, too, and research supports it. Addictions tend to get more extreme over time, with the body’s natural tolerance catching up to the substance intake, thereby requiring more of the substance to feel the effects of it. The more the substance is consumed, the worse it impacts the person, and the cycle continues until the person gets help.

Using Amphetamines to Control Eating

A great number of people with eating disorders use amphetamines to control eating. Amphetamines are appetite suppressants, meaning they nip hunger in the bud. A big part of eating disorders is staying hungry for extended periods of time. Precisely for this reason, amphetamines are so widely used, because they help with hunger pangs.

Research states that 2.7% of people with bulimia and 8.1% of people with anorexia rely on some form of amphetamines to reduce their appetite. Adderall, Focalin, Ritalin, Concerta, and Dexedrine are among the common amphetamines that are often abused to control appetite. Another reason they’re widespread is that they can be obtained illegally with not a lot of trouble.

This usage of amphetamines can lead to an addiction to them, thereby leaving the patient with an eating disorder to develop another illness: an addiction.


Eating disorders and addiction can be similar in attributes but are two separate things. Sometimes, one can lead to another.

#1 Both eating disorders and addictions lead to negative impacts on mental health.

#2 People with eating disorders have an unhealthy relationship with food, similar to how people with addictions have an unhealthy relationship with their substances.

#3 Both eating disorders and addictions get worse with time unless help is provided.

#4 Amphetamines are used to control eating because they suppress appetite.

#5 Using amphetamines to control eating can lead to an addiction to amphetamines.

Claire James