Eating Disorders and Possible Co-Existing Illnesses or Addictions

Below you will find some of the psychological illnesses and addictions that can sometimes co-exist with an Eating Disorder.

In people who suffer from Eating Disorders Anorexia, Bulimia and/or Compulsive Overeating. In some cases, their Eating Disorder is a secondary symptom to an underlying psychological disorder (such as some people who also suffer with Multiple Personality Disorder), and in other cases, the psychological disorder may be secondary to the Eating Disorder (as with some people also suffering with Depression). Men and women may also suffer from both an Eating Disorder and other psychological disorder(s) that completely co-exist with one another... or they can suffer from an Eating Disorder and have little or no signs of an additional psychological disorder (Note: The longer a person suffer, the more probable that they may be dealing with Depression or Anxiety as well). It is important to the recovery process and treatment that all these issues are addressed, and that a proper diagnosis be determined.

Some of the psychological illness that can be (but are not always) found in people suffering with Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Overeating are: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, BiPolar and BiPolar II Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Panic Disorders and anxiety, and Dissociative Disorder and Multiple Personality Disorder.

In addition, some people suffering with an Eating Disorder may also be exhibiting other addictive or self-destructive behaviors. As an Eating Disorder is a reaction to a low self-esteem, and a negative means of coping with life and stress, so are other types of addictions. These can include alcoholism, drug addiction (illegal, prescription and/or over-the-counter medications), and self-injury, cutting and self-mutilation.

you will find some of the psychological illnesses and addictions that can sometimes co-exist with an Eating Disorder.Harming oneself, also known as cutting, self-mutilation, or SIV (self-inflicted violence) is a coping mechanism that is sometimes found in people also suffering with an Eating Disorder. For some, they may find it easier to deal with real physical pain than to deal with their emotional pain, or some may feel emotionally numb and using SIV reminds them that they are alive. They may even feel that they deserve to be hurt. It can be used to block out emotional pain, or to make the person feel "strong". It is a way to cope with stress and anger, shame and guilt, sadness, and as a release for emotions that have built up inside. SIV can be mild to severe, but it should never be confused with a conscious attempt to commit suicide (though some may die as a result of their actions, this is relatively uncommon). SIV can include cutting, burning, punching, slapping, hitting oneself with an object, eye-pushing, biting and head-banging, and less common methods would be those that have long-lasting or life-long effects such as bone breaking, or amputation.

Suffering with an Eating Disorder, alone or combined with any other psychological illness or addiction, leaves each sufferer needing new and better ways to cope.

There is an indication that Eating Disorders may sometimes co-exist with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder). Studies have shown that women who go undiagnosed as ADD (but do infact have it) are much more likely to develop an Eating Disorder. Some of the neurological symptoms of ADD/ADHD can be: holding onto negative thoughts and/or anger, as well as impulsivity both verbally (interrupting others) and in actions (acting before thinking). There may also be unexplained emotional negativity, depression, and even attempted suicide. To get a proper diagnosis, there is a whole criteria that needs to be met, so if you suspect you are living with ADHD or ADD, please visit one of the links below.

From the National ADD Association, "If untreated, individuals with ADHD may develop a variety of secondary problems as they move through life, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, academic failure, vocational problems, marital discord, and emotional distress." There are many of the same possible co-existing psychological illnesses with ADHD/ADD as with an Eating Disorder, including: Depression, BiPolar Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

I have received e-mail from a good number of men who are simultaneously living with ADHD and an Eating Disorder, and I suspect there are many more, both men and women, doing the same.

Please, before jumping to any conclusions about yourself or a loved-one, research the information. Eating Disorders do not always co-exist with another psychological illness or addiction, but it is not uncommon to find that they do. Remember, many of these illnesses and conditions share similar symptoms. A proper diagnosis by a doctor is very important to successful treatment and recovery of the eating disorder.

next: Eating Disorders Linked to Suicide Risk
~ all articles on depression and eating disorders
~ eating disorders library
~ all articles on eating disorders

APA Reference
Gluck, S. (2007, March 1). Eating Disorders and Possible Co-Existing Illnesses or Addictions, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: April 18, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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