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‘Drunkorexia’: Trending Again On College Campuses

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Drunkorexia is a term for the combined affliction of two horrific and deadly addictive diseases.  Alcoholism and anorexia nervosa claim a significant amount of lives daily. For the people these diseases haven’t yet claimed, their lives are controlled by obsessive drinking and restricted food intake. Research finds that drunkorexia is not new but is absolutely increasing, especially among the young population of college students.

What Is Drunkorexia?

Essentially, drunkorexia is fasting and consuming as little amount of food as possible or purging before drinking in order to consume more alcohol and become much more intoxicated.  The concept behind why people – which is most commonly but not limited to young adults – partake in such extreme restriction in food is to have the effects of alcohol produce a quicker onset.  Another reason for the strange dual diagnosis is that people do not want the calories of alcohol to cause weight gain, so they restrict during the day to maintain their weight.

Drunkorexia Statistics

Drunkorexia is not an old concept, and in 2013 an estimated 40% of students in college were displaying symptoms of drunkorexia, as found by the University of Florida. More recently, the University of Houston conducted a survey of about 1,200 students who had engaged in heavy drinking at least once in the past month and discovered that eight to ten students displayed drunkorexia behavior. These behaviors included laxative abuse, pruging, or skipping meals entirely.

Breaking the Stigma

Since drunkorexia was observed as prevalent among young adults, some college students were sought out for their opinions.  “I don’t think it is a good idea,” Katie Devries of Central Michigan University said when asked about students skipping meals and then consuming alcohol instead.  “I don’t know why you would want to drink on an empty stomach.  That’s not good for anyone.”

Knowing something is not good for you does not guarantee that a person will not do it.  This is the stigma behind any addiction, whether it is alcoholism or an eating disorder.  No person wakes up one morning and desires to be an alcoholic or eating disordered individual.  This is a mental disease.  Consequences will only limit people to a certain extent; sometimes they may have no affect at all. When it comes to drunkorexia, the eating disordered alcoholic may be perfectly well aware that what they are doing is harmful to their body and yet, for some mentally plaguing reason, they are inclined to continue starving themselves while indulging in excessive drinking.

Sometimes in addiction, these people do not even know why they are pulled towards the addictive behavior and why they continue the cycle of acting out.  They just do it.  That is part of the insanity behind the mental illness.  These are not people that choose to get entangled in an addictive cycle, but rather sick people that don’t know how to get better, and honestly probably cannot even fathom that a freedom from their obsession is even a possibility.  The eating disordered alcoholic may be completely convinced that the only way they can go through life is to starve themselves and continue to drink.  This is where it is no longer a choice, but pure addiction and disease.

Alcoholism and anorexia nervosa are two extremely dangerous diseases, so together as drunkorexia, they are exceptionally life-threatening.  The internal damage may be irreversible and the bottom line is they are playing Russian roulette with their life.  Multiple addictions feed off each other.  An eating disorder and alcoholism will not go away by ignoring the problem.

If you or someone you know is displaying concerning these eating disordered and/or alcoholic behaviors, call The Watershed at 1-800-861-1768 today.

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