The act of eating and drinking is fundamental for survival, but as a type of behavior it is also likely to lead to the development of psychopathologies. After all, where there is behavior, there is a possibility that it will turn into harmful behavior, as clinical psychology shows.
In this article, we will focus on an eating disorder in which both the behavior of eating well and drinking excessively occurs. This is an intoxication, also called alcohorexia. Let’s see what it is.
Intoxication: a combination of anorexia and alcoholism
Alcohol is a psychoactive substance which enjoys great popularity and great social acceptance, to the point of forming part of the idiosyncrasy of many cultures. It is associated with socialization and disinhibition, and often its use begins in adolescence.
At this age too is when some teens may start to have eating problemsOften based on the search for acceptance by the group at a stage where it is still searching for its own identity. Sometimes the two elements can be associated with a disorder of great danger to the life of the patient, and here intoxication comes into play.
This is called intoxication or alcoholism a dangerous eating disorder, which is characterized by the gradual replacement of food intake by the consumption of alcohol with the aim of the patient losing or losing weight.
People who suffer from this type of disorder suffer an intense fear of gaining weight and gaining weight, Which appears with a high level of body distortion which makes them perceive extremely thick. This, associated with the obsession and overestimation of thinness, leads them to decide to limit their consumption or to resort to purgative behaviors in order to lose weight.
In case of intoxication, the person decides to replace the calories to be acquired through food with those that can be obtained through alcohol, which means that in practice, they stop eating to focus on drinking alcohol. In many cases, in addition to after that, they use other purgative behaviors, such as inducing vomiting to lose any calories they may have gained from alcohol.
On the other hand, the consumption of alcoholic beverages is linked to poor management of the anxiety generated by the development of the disorder itself: the consumption of this substance is used to try to alleviate the discomfort, which generates a feeling of guilt and immediate repentance. .
Usually this disorder, more and more frequent and included in other specified eating disorders, it is suffered by young people and adolescents. Although there are cases in both sexes, it seems to be three times more common in women.
Major risks and consequences
It is a very dangerous disorder with the potential for death that links the consequences and risks of eating disorders such as anorexia and those of alcohol consumption, abuse or even dependence. . The alterations can be both physical and neurological or even psychological, Damage to organs such as the heart, kidneys, liver, brain or blood vessels.
In this sense, we find excessive weight loss to achieve clinically dangerous underweight, which can trigger amenorrhea, insomnia, dizziness, tachycardia, arrhythmias, hypopression, anxiety, cyanosis, Kidney and liver problems (even up to kidney / liver failure), pain, constipation, alopecia, fatigue, suicidal ideation or depression
It also causes problems with attention and concentration, memory, physical ability, irritability or decreased libido, as well as a tendency to lie (especially in relation to food).
For that, they join him own alcohol dependence disorders such as liver problems such as cirrhosis, Gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular problems, hallucinations, confusion, inability to concentrate, memory problems, kidney failure, coma or even death. Also irritability, anxiety, depression and social conflicts with family, partner and friendships.
In addition, performance problems appear at the academic and professional level, and can even lead to dismissal. Legal and judicial problems can also arise.
In addition, it should be noted that the fact of not eating causes alcohol to have a greater effect on the brain and body, This facilitates the appearance of negative consequences with its use. For example, neurological or digestive problems are more likely to occur. Alterations such as Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome are also more likely to occur.
Causes of this disorder
The causes of poisoning are not fully defined, as this disorder has a multicausal origin, as is generally the case with all psychological disorders in general.
Among the various factors that can affect or facilitate their occurrence are the transmission and overestimation of certain beauty canons focused on thinness. It is common for people with this disorder to feel insecure.
In many cases, they may have had experiences of rejection that caused them great pain, a rejection that may have been related to their figure. Your experiences may lead them to resort to products like alcohol to disinhibit themselves or to feel more accepted. At the personality level, it is common for them to have a rigid and perfectionist or extremely emotionally labile personality.
Parenting models can also have some effect, In the event that overestimated ideas are conveyed around the body silhouette or if the image of alcohol is conveyed as a way to solve or avoid problems.
On the other hand, it is believed that there are also genetic predispositions that influence the chances of developing intoxication. However, these are not clear, and in any case, it would be many genes interacting with each other. Under no circumstances can a psychological disorder be developed solely by genetic factors, but these are linked to the development of the organism in interaction with its environment.
Treating drunkenness requires a multidisciplinary intervention that takes into account both dietary alteration and possible alcohol dependence, As well as the importance of the social context of the person.
First of all, if the patient is in an emergency situation, hospitalization may be necessary, in which the first thing will be to stabilize his state of health and contribute to his recovery from a minimum weight, at the same time as his status. is monitored and its constants are monitored.
Another possible route of entry for poisoning is alcohol poisoning., Or the effects or alterations caused by lack of nutrients and intoxication or the effect of alcohol consumption, in several bodily systems.
Once the patient is stable, they should work on developing an appropriate diet and use strategies such as cognitive restructuring to combat dysfunctional beliefs.
Another useful strategy for both limiting and consuming alcohol is through exposure with prevention of response to anxiety-inducing stimuli. Of course, first in-depth cognitive work is necessary.
Before that, it will be necessary to generate a desire for change, trying to gradually make the patient aware of the existence of a problem and its consequences and risks. Later it is possible to help to make a decisive balance that allows us to see the need to make a change and abandon the previous behavior, And establish progressively guidelines and plans to effect and then maintain the desired change over time.
Working on stress management and social skills can be helpful. Practicing psychoeducation with the affected person but also with their environment can be useful for everyone to understand the process that the affected person is going through, as well as to offer various guidelines and assess possible complications of treatment.
- American Psychiatric Association (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
- Adam, B. (2012). Drunkorexia: understanding the coincidence of alcohol consumption and weight control behaviors with eating / exercising. Journal of American Academic Health. 60 (3): 236-243.
- Blackmore, NPI and Gleaves, DH (2013). Self-induced vomiting after drinking alcohol. International Journal of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, 11 (4): pages 453-457.
- Chevalier, A. (2013). Drunkorexia: An Empirical Research on Eating Disorders in Direct Response to Calorie Saving by Alcohol Consumption in Australian University Women. Journal of Eating Disorders 1 (1), p. 6.
- Stoppler, MC (2008). Drunkenness, manorexia, diabulimia: new eating disorders. MedicineNet.