Q & A: To What Extent Do Clinicians Think Eating Disorders and Addictions Are Related?

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
November/December 2005 Volume 16, Number 6
©2005 Gürze Books

Q: I’ve heard that eating disorders are just another form of addiction, like substance abuse. Is this true? (M.L., Cincinnati)

A: Although much of the public believes eating disorders share many similarities with addictive disorders and might actually be addictions themselves, so far little evidence has been found to prove this. An interesting sidelight to this comes from a recent Canadian study that surveyed psychotherapists in Canada to see if they used addiction-based therapy for patients with eating disorders. As Kristin M. von Ranson, PhD, and a team at the University of Calgary reported at the Eating Disorders Research Society meeting in September, 26% of therapists often or always used addictions-based therapies for patients with eating disorders, and another 15% referred clients to adjunctive addictions-based eating disorders treatment. This meant that 42% of therapists used or permitted addictions-based treatments for patients. The authors also systematically surveyed English-language websites describing eating-disorders-focused treatment studies. She found that 30.5% of these unique eating disorders websites used an addictions-based approach as part of or all of the treatment. However, these clinicians were not specifically eating disorders specialists. It’s likely that a much smaller percentage of clinicians specializing in eating disorders would link these disorders with the addictive disorders. But this remains to be studied.

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