Lynne has been sober for ten years and has managed her alcoholism successfully, but now she finds herself dealing with an eating disorder. She is binge-eating and has noticed several health issues as a result of it. Other than high cholesterol, Lynne has also gained several dress sizes and is very concerned about heart disease. Her waking hours are filled with despair as to where it’s all going to end, and the sugar that she binges on affects her sleep. Effectively she has traded one addiction for another.

What Causes the Switch?

When you replace one addiction with another, it usually means that you have not dealt with the underlying issues that have caused the addictive behaviour in the first place. Professor Tanya Bryon explains: “This eating disorder is not related to being greedy, but with addictive patterns of behaviour that may have been inherited and learnt, and are associated with low self-esteem and mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.” She continues, “The stigma associated with weight gain, leading to further shame and self-loathing, perpetuates this dangerous disorder.”

What Is This Eating Disorder?

Prof Bryon explains: “It is understood as emotional eating, consuming for comfort rather than for physical need, and is characterised by the mindless, rapid eating of large amounts of food, past the point of feeling full and in a way that feels out of control and impossible to stop. The eating behaviour is not triggered by hunger, happens in secret, and is accompanied by feelings of self-loathing and guilt.” She continues by saying that the disorder usually manifests in late adolescence, and researchers estimate that about 12 million Britons suffer from this eating disorder.

What Do I Do If I’ve Switched One Addiction for Another?

The first thing that you need to always do is acknowledge and accept that you have a problem and that you need help with that problem. Binge-eating is difficult to overcome because you cannot avoid food like you can avoid drugs and alcohol. You probably follow a pattern of ‘I will stop tomorrow’, but when you fail, you are filled with self-loathing, shame, and guilt. It is a similar pattern that is followed when you tried to overcome your original addiction and is a sign that you have not dealt with you underlying issues that fuel your addictive behaviour. You will need to get expert help with both your eating disorder and the issues that have led to this behaviour.

The same principles that you have used to overcome your original addiction apply with binge-eating. If you used a twelve-step process to deal with your problems, a similar process could also work. In Lynne’s case, she joined Overeaters Anonymous. Unfortunately, she did not find it very helpful, but Prof Bryon advises that she try another chapter of the group where people are facing the same challenges as she is.

Another route is to go for therapy. In this case, cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT as it is known, is highly recommended. This is a talk therapy that helps by you talking through your issues with a specialist to find solutions.

In addition, you could also try and follow a healthy eating plan that gives you enough nutrition and snacks without the high sugar content that you would usually binge on. The structure of the eating plan will help you to ‘avoid’ unhealthy choices like you would avoid drugs or alcohol. It will take a lot of self-discipline and should not be attempted without significant support from family, friends, and your therapist.

Where Can I Get Help?

Liberty House Clinic offers a specialised treatment regimen for eating disorders, and we have trained staff, therapists, and counsellors who are skilled and experienced in dealing with the challenges that you are facing. We have a helpline that is staffed 24/7, and we can guide and advise you on the next steps that you need to take in order to come for treatment.

If required, we can offer you immediate admittance to our clinic, but we also offer outpatient treatment options. Our counsellors and therapists offer a broad range of therapy options and will help you to explore and address your underlying issues in a safe and secure environment.

Our friendly staff will also give you guidance on matters such as healthy living and diet options, and our medical professionals may also be able to prescribe appropriate medication to help you deal with cravings and other withdrawal symptoms. We can also monitor issues such as weight gain/loss, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

Once you have completed your treatment at the clinic, we also offer you an aftercare service to help you through your first year of post-treatment life. Give us a call today, and we will help you regain control of your life.

Source:  (The Times) Tanya Bryon: I’ve replaced my alcohol addiction with binge eating