Drunkorexia and the Rise of “Rexias” in Disordered Eating
Anorexia, orthorexia and drunkorexia: debunked and differentiated.
Posted June 6, 2017
The root word –rexia is derived from the Greek language and means appetite; hunger; to stretch out for; to desire and is most commonly used in words such as drunkorexia, orthorexia and anorexia which all are terms that fall into the category of obsessive behaviors related to disordered eating, however each one of these terms is vastly different. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) or The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) do not formally recognize drunkorexia and othrorexia and therefore they are technically not classified as true eating disorders. However they are unhealthy behaviors that have been known to lead to clinical eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, binge eating or bulimia nervosa and also can result in severe morbidity if not recognized and treated early in their progression.
Drunkorexia is known as the practice of engaging in excessive diet-related behaviors such as restricting food, binging and purging or excessive exercise while also consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Drunkorexia is not recognized as a formal eating disorder however this dangerous behavior is affecting millions of individuals nationwide, especially on college campuses. A study showed that eight out of 10 college students, many of who were males, recently engaged in at least one behavior associated with drunkorexia. Eating less and drinking more is becoming a popular trend in college and among young adults who enjoy socializing but who want to maintain a super thin figure. Not to mention, it is much easier to feel the effects of alcohol on an emptier stomach. Studies have shown that approximately 30 percent of women in their early twenties are skipping meals in order to drink more. Drinking on an empty stomach not only raises your blood alcohol content at a faster rate but also can lead to dangerous alcohol-associated behaviors such as driving under the influence, violent assaults and uninhibited behaviors.
Orthorexia is an eating disorder characterized by having an unhealthy obsession with healthy food. An obsession with healthy dieting and consuming only pure foods becomes deeply rooted in the individual’s way of thinking to the point it interferes with their daily life. Examples of severe eating disturbances seen in orthorexia include eating only fruits and vegetables or only consuming organic food. Although orthorexia is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), it is still considered recognized by many mental health professionals and eating disorder experts and more research is needed before it can be included in the next version of the DSM. Healthy eating is not as “healthy” when it becomes an overwhelming obsessive behavior creating conflicts within the inner self. Unlike individuals with anorexia nervosa who are obsessed with losing weight or preventing weight gain, individuals with orthorexia may not be obsessed with their weight but they are obsessed with healthy eating, however both of these populations have an underlying problem with self-control.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder classified by the unhealthy disturbance in body shape and image resulting in the refusal to maintain a minimum body weight. Individuals will go to extreme measures not only to starve themselves but also to rid their bodies of any caloric intake they consumed through self-purging mechanisms such as self-induced vomiting, laxative, diuretics and extreme exercise. This devastating eating disorder is the number one killer out of all the mental health disorders and up to four percent of women in the United States have a lifetime prevalence of this disorder compared to 0.1-0.3% of men. Anorexia is an eating disorder but the underlying pathology is not about food but rather about deeper psychosocial issues the individual is battling. Perfectionism and self-control are two major factors that drive these dangerous behaviors. With instant gratification and constantly being plugged in to the latest trends to look beautiful and thin, the battle with this eating disorder is becoming more and more difficult. Anorexia nervosa results from the complex intertwining relationships between social, biological and psychological factors, which can be rooted deep within the individual since early childhood. Anorexia nervosa results from severe maladaptive behaviors triggered by trauma, anxiety, fear, low self-esteem and difficulty resolving conflicts. It is not due to a failure of behavior or will nor is it easily controlled.
Disordered eating can lead to severe consequences on your mind and body and individuals as young as eight years of age are now being diagnosed with disordered eating. With constant societal influences and the need to be thin combined with the stigma attached to eating disorders and mental health disorders, only 30% of individuals seek professional treatment for their eating disorder. Seeking treatment from a reputable and credible eating disorder specialist can be life changing.