Drunkorexia. What exactly is it, and what effect does it have on a person? Drunkorexia is a relatively new term that has gained more notoriety over the last 10 years. It combines eating disorders with alcohol abuse and is a practice indulged in by many college students. This dangerous routine includes individuals starving themselves during the day so that they can consume larger amounts of alcohol without the caloric surplus.
Those who engage in drunkorexia also have the tendency to exercise profusely or purge on the days they binge drink. This need for control can result in an eating disorder triggered by unhealthy habits. With almost 60 percent of college students between the ages of 18 and 22 consuming alcohol, drunkorexia is now increasingly prevalent on campuses throughout the nation.
An example of drunkorexia is a student abstaining from food all day, then consuming alcohol and becoming inebriated extremely quickly. This unhealthy habit can lead to vomiting, blackouts, hangovers, or even alcohol poisoning. Without food in the body to cushion its effects, a person can become very drunk in a short period of time.
The risk of adverse health effects, poor behavior, and negative consequences are higher during episodes of drunkorexia. Hangovers can affect work, school, and life balance. Attendance and performance may suffer. Nutrition deficiencies may begin to happen over time without proper nutrients from food getting into the body.
Overindulgence in alcohol can also negatively affect the stomach, liver and gastrointestinal system. There is also a higher risk for cancer and other diseases as alcohol is consumed over a period of years.
For those with a preexisting eating disorder, drunkorexia is even more dangerous. Those with eating disorders may fast, binge eat, or use laxatives to control weight. Another facet of drunkorexia is a person purging or vomiting prior to drinking in order to make room for alcohol. Over-exercising can also be a problem.
Food and Alcohol Disturbance
It’s thought that those who engage in this behavior are trying to undo what they perceive to be the negative effects of drinking or overindulging in alcohol. One study even showed that out of 25,000 students polled across 40 U.S colleges, it was binge drinkers who were more likely to exercise strenuously. Furthermore, college students, in general, are known to have a higher rate of eating disorders.
Another study suggests that “Drunkorexia” should be renamed “Food and Alcohol Disturbance” (FAD), to indicate the severity of this disorder. To help combat the spread of FAD, positive body image education, awareness of body shaming and eating disorders as well as alcohol abuse, and therapeutic intervention are necessary. A team at the University of Toledo has started a campaign designed to create greater awareness and reduce the focus on unrealistic body images that are so widely spread throughout social media.
It’s also important for campus educators and school counselors to work with parents and medical professionals to help intervene and identify students suffering from drunkorexia.