Drunkorexia…An Eating Disorder with a Twist

The latest entry in the lexicon of food-related ills is drunkorexia, shorthand for a disturbing blend of behaviors: self-imposed starvation or binging and purging, combined with alcohol abuse.

Drunkorexia is not an official medical term. But it hints at a troubling phenomenon in addiction and eating disorders. Among those who are described as drunkorexics are college-age binge drinkers, typically women, who starve all day to offset the calories in the alcohol they consume. The term is also associated with serious eating disorders, particularly bulimia, which often involve behavior like binging on food — and alcohol — and then purging.

Anorexics, because they severely restrict their calorie intake, tend to avoid alcohol. But some drink to calm down before eating or to ease the anxiety of having indulged in a meal. Others consume alcohol as their only sustenance. Still others use drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine to suppress their appetites.

"There are women who are afraid to put a grape in their mouth but have no problem drinking a beer," said Dr. Douglas Bunnell, the director of outpatient clinical services for the Renfrew Center, based in Philadelphia.

The center, like a small but growing number of eating-disorder and addiction-treatment facilities, most on the West Coast, offers a dual focus on substance abuse and eating disorders. ……. continue reading