Dual Recovery: Treatment Centers for Eating Disorders and Alcohol Use Disorder

Explore the impact of coexisting eating disorders and alcohol use disorder and how treatment centers for eating disorders can assist in recovery.    

What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

Co-occurring eating disorders and alcohol use disorder are often called “dual diagnosis” or “comorbid” conditions. This means that an individual is struggling with both disorders simultaneously. Getting help at treatment centers for eating disorders and alcohol use disorder can help individuals heal.1

Co-occurring disorders are more common than one might think. This condition affects a significant number of individuals worldwide. Although these conditions are severe, various treatments are available for individuals seeking recovery.2

Treatment centers for eating disorders and alcohol use disorder offer individuals the opportunity to treat both conditions at the same time. By addressing eating disorders and alcohol use disorder simultaneously, healthcare professionals can provide education and care that leads to lasting recovery.

Symptoms of Co-Occurring Disorders

When eating disorders and alcohol use disorder coexist, they can manifest in a range of symptoms that intertwine. Seeking help from professionals specializing in dual diagnosis can provide individuals with comprehensive support to overcome eating disorders and alcohol use disorder.

Some examples of co-occurring disorder symptoms include:

Intensified Substance Use

Individuals with co-occurring disorders may increase their substance use to cope with mental health symptoms, leading to escalating drug or alcohol consumption.

Persistent Emotional Distress

Co-occurring disorders can result in chronic emotional turmoil, including feelings of anxiety, sadness, irritability, or hopelessness.

Impaired Decision-Making

Individuals may experience difficulties making sound decisions, leading to risky behaviors and consequences related to substance use and mental health.

Social Withdrawal

Co-occurring disorders can lead to social isolation as individuals may feel overwhelmed or misunderstood by others.

Disrupted Sleep Patterns

Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or excessive sleeping, are also common symptoms of co-occurring disorders.

Changes in Appetite or Eating Habits

Co-existing mental health and substance use disorders can lead to fluctuations in appetite, overeating, or loss of interest in food.

Physical Health Issues

Individuals may experience a decline in physical health due to the impact of substance use and untreated mental health conditions.

Neglect of Responsibilities

Co-occurring disorders can lead to difficulties in fulfilling personal, professional, or academic responsibilities.

Inability to Cope with Stress

Individuals with co-occurring disorders may struggle to cope with stressors, leading to a reliance on substances as a coping mechanism.

Suicidal Thoughts or Self-Harm

Co-occurring disorders increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviors.

Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Several factors contribute to the higher prevalence of specific disorders in co-occurring disorders.3
The interplay between different disorders can be complex. Some examples of common co-occurring disorders include:

Anxiety and Mood Disorders

Anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder often coexist with substance use disorder. Mood disorders, like depression and dysthymia, are commonly observed in individuals struggling with substance misuse.


Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder characterized by distorted thinking, hallucinations, and delusions. Individuals with schizophrenia may turn to substances as a means of self-medication to cope with the distressing symptoms of their condition.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder involves alternating periods of mania and depression. When combined with SUD, individuals may experience extreme mood swings, making stabilizing emotions and maintaining sobriety challenging.

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depression is a prevalent mental disorder often seen alongside substance use disorder. The dual diagnosis of these conditions can create a cycle of despair, where each condition intensifies the symptoms of the other.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Individuals with PTSD may use substances to cope with the distressing memories and emotions associated with traumatic experiences. This self-medicating behavior can lead to a dual diagnosis situation.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is characterized by difficulties with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It can be a risk factor for developing SUD, especially when left untreated or undiagnosed. Individuals may use substances as a means to self-regulate and manage ADHD symptoms.

Exploring the Link Between Eating Disorders and Alcohol Use Disorder

While eating disorders revolve around complex relationships with food, body image, and emotions, alcohol use disorder is centered on the abuse of alcohol as a coping mechanism.
For some individuals with eating disorders, alcohol serves as a means of escape from the overwhelming emotions associated with their condition. The numbing effect of alcohol can temporarily alleviate feelings of:
  • Anxiety
  • Shame
  • Guilt related to disordered eating behavior
However, this relief is short-lived, as excessive alcohol consumption can exacerbate negative emotions and intensify the cycle of self-destructive behaviors.

Chronic Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Disorders

Chronic substance use disorder can lead to the development of mental health disorders. Substance use can alter brain chemistry and affect mood, cognition, and behavior.
Individuals becoming dependent on substances may experience withdrawal symptoms and increased anxiety, depression, or paranoia. These changes in mental health can perpetuate substance use as individuals seek to avoid the discomfort of withdrawal.

Factors Contributing to the Occurrence of Co-Occurring Disorders

A combination of factors influences the development of co-occurring disorders. They include biological, psychological, and environmental elements. This can also contribute to someone needing to find help at treatment centers for eating disorders and alcohol use disorder.
Here are some key contributors to the occurrence of co-occurring disorders:

Biological Factors

Individuals with a family history of mental health disorders or substance use problems may have a higher genetic predisposition to both conditions. Shared genetic vulnerabilities can make them more susceptible to developing co-occurring disorders.

Psychological Factors

Co-occurring disorders often arise from the complex interplay of psychological factors. Conditions that may contribute to both the onset and perpetuation of substance abuse as individuals seek to self-medicate to alleviate emotional distress include:
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma-related disorders

Environmental Factors

Adverse life experiences during childhood can increase the risk of developing co-occurring disorders. These include:
  • Trauma
  • Neglect
  • Exposure to substance use disorder in the family or social circle
Additionally, social and environmental stressors may exacerbate symptoms of existing conditions. Some examples of these stressors are financial problems or unstable living conditions.

How Alcohol Can Be Used as a Coping Mechanism for Individuals with Eating Disorders

The emotional distress surrounding food, body image, and emotions can be overwhelming for those battling eating disorders. As a coping mechanism, some individuals may turn to alcohol to temporarily numb emotional pain and relieve their disorder’s challenges.4
The sedative effects of alcohol offer a brief escape from the emotional turmoil associated with disordered eating behaviors.

The Temporary Relief vs. Long-Term Consequences

While alcohol may offer temporary respite, its use as a coping mechanism for individuals with eating disorders has significant long-term consequences. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to physical and psychological dependence.
This can make it even more challenging for individuals to confront the underlying issues contributing to their eating disorders. Alcohol and disordered eating intensify feelings of guilt, shame, and self-criticism, eroding self-esteem. It also hinders engagement in therapy, affecting self-awareness and progress.
Finding help at treatment centers for eating disorders and alcohol use disorder can help individuals get the support they need for their dual diagnosis.

The Importance of Dual Recovery Treatment

For individuals facing co-occurring eating disorders and alcohol use disorder, comprehensive care through dual-diagnosis treatment is crucial for achieving lasting recovery.
Dual diagnosis treatment aims to address the root causes of both conditions simultaneously rather than merely treating surface-level symptoms.

Benefits of Dual Recovery Treatment

Dual diagnosis treatment addresses co-occurring disorders simultaneously and offers several advantages over single-focused approaches. By integrating mental health and substance use disorder treatments, individuals experience more comprehensive and effective care.
Some of the benefits of treatment centers for eating disorders and alcohol use disorder include:

Holistic Healing

By treating both conditions together, individuals can achieve a more balanced and holistic approach to healing, fostering overall well-being and emotional stability.

Reduced Risk of Relapse

Treating only one condition while neglecting the other can lead to a higher risk of relapse. Addressing both co-occurring disorders helps individuals develop coping strategies that are not reliant on substances, promoting sustained recovery and reducing the chances of relapse.

Enhanced Self-Awareness

Dual diagnosis treatment encourages individuals to gain deeper insights into how their mental health and substance use interact. This increased self-awareness empowers individuals to recognize triggers and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

Strong Support System

In dual diagnosis treatment, individuals interact with peers facing similar challenges. Sharing experiences and learning from one another fosters a supportive community, reducing feelings of isolation and promoting a sense of belonging.

Tailored Treatment Plans

Each person’s journey toward recovery is unique. Dual diagnosis treatment allows for personalized treatment plans that address an individual’s specific needs, experiences, and goals.

Therapeutic Approaches Commonly Used for Co-Occurring Disorders

Treatment centers for eating disorders and alcohol use disorder use a range of evidence-based therapeutic approaches that target both mental health and substance use disorders. These therapeutic modalities are integrated into individualized treatment plans to meet each person’s unique needs.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps individuals identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with mental health and substance use disorders. By challenging distorted beliefs, individuals can develop healthier coping strategies and reduce their reliance on substances as a means of escape.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is particularly beneficial for individuals struggling with emotional dysregulation. It teaches various skills to help individuals manage emotions and improve relationships like:

  • Mindfulness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Emotion regulation
  • Interpersonal effectiveness skills

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

MI is a client-centered approach to motivating individuals to change their behavior. It helps individuals explore their ambivalence about:
  • Recovery
  • Resolve doubts
  • Commit to making positive changes

Group Therapy

Group therapy offers a supportive environment where individuals can:

  • Share their experiences
  • learn from one another
  • Build a sense of camaraderie
It provides a safe space to practice new coping skills and receive feedback from peers and therapists.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders at Choice House

At Choice House, our comprehensive dual diagnosis program offers a wide range of therapeutic modalities and approaches to cater to the unique needs of each individual. Some treatment options we offer at Choice House include the following:

Individual and Group Therapy

These one-on-one counseling sessions explore personal issues and emotions and supportive group settings to foster a sense of community and shared experiences.

Somatic Therapy

Somatic therapy is a holistic approach that recognizes the mind-body connection to address trauma and emotional issues stored in the body.

Experiential and Psychodrama Therapy

Treatment programs utilize role-playing and creative expression to process emotions and build self-awareness.

Mindfulness Techniques

Practices that encourage present-moment awareness and help individuals manage stress and cravings.

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a specialized therapy to address past trauma and its impact on mental health and addiction.

Intervention Through Art

Utilizing artistic expression as a form of communication and healing.

Family Programs

Treatment centers include families in the recovery process to rebuild healthy relationships and support networks.

Immersing in Nature for Recovery at Choice House

At Choice House, we are committed to tailoring treatment options to meet the unique needs of each individual seeking dual diagnosis recovery.
Our integrated approach combines therapeutic interventions, medical support, and a compassionate environment. This empowers individuals to overcome co-occurring disorders and embark on a genuine healing and transformation journey.

The Healing Power of Nature at Choice House

Choice House is situated in the serene Rocky Mountains and provides a healing environment that encourages self-reflection and growth. Combining comprehensive dual diagnosis care with powerful outdoor therapies enhances recovery and fosters a deeper sense of self-awareness.
Treatment centers for eating disorders and alcohol use disorder, like our program, can help you heal.

Outdoor Adventure Therapy at Choice House

Outdoor adventure therapy offers a unique and powerful personal growth and recovery approach. Patients have the opportunity to engage in multiple activities amidst the stunning natural landscape, promoting more significant recovery and healthier habits such as:
Treatment Centers for Eating Disorders

Choosing Choice House as Your Dual Recovery Treatment Center

At Choice House, we understand that every recovery journey is different. We tailor our treatment plans to match each person’s needs and experiences. By combining proven therapeutic methods and holistic healing practices, we create a safe and supportive space where healing and personal growth can flourish.
Our goal is to design treatment plans that fit each person’s situation. We consider a person’s background, struggles, and strengths to create a plan that makes sense for them.

Choice House Treatment Approach

Our treatment plans are built on solid, research-backed therapeutic methods, but we also embrace holistic practices that consider the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. We use mindfulness techniques, experiential therapies, and activities to encourage growth and self-discovery.

By blending these approaches, we provide an environment that supports healing and helps individuals thrive.
Our core belief is that everyone’s story matters and each person’s journey to recovery is deeply personal. At Choice House, we’re not just offering treatment. We’re providing hope, resilience, and the understanding that recovery is possible for everyone.

Begin Your Recovery Journey Today

Take the first step toward recovery and lasting sobriety. Contact Choice House to learn more about our effective treatment centers for eating disorders and alcohol use disorder today.

Participants leave their usual environments and enter nature. In these settings, they must learn to work as part of a team and develop survival skills.1