Increase in Eating Disorders with Dual Diagnoses

July 30th, 2010

At Mirasol we have been admitting many more patients recently who are considered to be dual-diagnosis patients, meaning that they have more than one serious diagnosis. It is not uncommon for a patients to admit with not only an eating disorder, but substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and accompanying anxiety.

The conventional way of thinking is to treat the substance abuse first, then address the eating disorder. At Mirasol, we have long believed that co-occurring conditions need to be treated simultaneously. If all the conditions are not treated at the same time, treatment outcomes are usually poor, and what would ordinarily be considered a small slip can turn into a cascading event, almost like a house of cards, with one slip triggering another one rapidly.

A strong connection between eating disorders and substance abuse has been long evident with a majority of women reporting binge eating and/or bulimia nervosa along with the substance abuse. Some 40-50% of all women who have an eating disorder will have a problem with alcohol and drugs either currently or at some time in their lives. The eating disorder and substance abuse are frequently accompanied with PTSD.

In a recent survey of eating disorder symptoms among women in treatment for substance abuse, researchers found that among women with co-occurring substance abuse disorders and PTSD, a little more than one-third of the women were binge eaters as well. The women who were binge eaters had higher eating disorder, PTSD, and depressive symptomology than those women in the non- eating disordered group. Researchers also found that progress in the binge-eating group was much slower. It stands to reason that the relapse rate would also be higher with the binge eaters.

Substantial new research in eating disorders, substance abuse, and PTSD, indicates that the greater the severity of childhood trauma and PTSD or Disorder of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified (DESNOS), the earlier the onset of alcoholism and related problems. Consequently, Mirasol is now evaluating all new patients with dual-or multiple diagnoses for PTSD and trauma, and we have developed specific protocols for treating these patients.

2 Responses to “Increase in Eating Disorders with Dual Diagnoses”

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  2. jrust says:

    A panic attack is not an official disorder according to medical criteria (although try telling someone that when they’re in the middle of one).

    A panic attack is a discrete period of intense fear or discomfort, in which four (or more) of the following symptoms developed abruptly and reached a peak within ten minutes;
    1. Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
    2. Sweating
    3. Trembling or shaking
    4. Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
    5. Feeling of choking
    6. Chest pain or discomfort
    7. Nausea or abdominal distress
    8. Feeling dizzy, unstteady, lightheaded, or faint
    9. Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
    10. Fear of losing control or going crazy
    11. Fear of dying

    Severe anxiety disorder may or may not be accompanied by agoraphobia. Severe anxiety disorder would have more symptoms than 4 or 5
    Sometimes panic attacks can be accompanied by another mental disorder.

    A severe anxiety disorder is much worse than a mild panic attack. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to see if you can find out now what’s causing the panic attacks –

    Thanks for writing. I’m happy to answer any questions.


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