Studies of children and adults reveal a correlation between poor body image and substance abuse. Willingness to change one’s physical appearance to achieve an unhealthy and unrealistic body type can lead individuals to replace food, social time, or sleep with alcohol and other substances. Negative self-image can also cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders that worsen addictive behaviors.

Substance Abuse for Weight Loss

Replacing meals with alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to stem hunger can lead to a lasting addiction. In a study by French, Perry, Leon, and Fulkerson found that adolescent males who expressed a strong desire to be thin were more likely to be habitual smokers of cigarettes. Substance reliance can greatly worsen one’s relationship with food and their own body, increasing symptoms of an eating disorder or mental illness.

Substance Abuse to Combat a Preexisting Eating Disorder

Substance abuse can accompany both subclinical eating disorders, like intense dieting, and major eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia. Studies suggest that substance abuse may be a coping mechanism intended to combat internalized dislike for one’s own body.

In situations of low self-worth, individuals may seek the numbing effects of certain substances until the habit becomes an addiction. Low self-esteem does not always cause an eating disorder to develop, but increasingly antagonistic thoughts toward one’s own body in addition to external encouragement to conform to a specific body type pose a high risk.

Recent studies maintain that substance reliance, when it arises from an eating disorder, is a strategy to cope with the stresses of poor mental and physical health. Confronting poor body image and unhealthy behaviors rather than escaping from them through substance abuse is difficult. Healing mentally, emotionally, and physically is hard work, but with professional treatment and determination, recovery is always possible.

If you are seeking treatment for co-occurring conditions, call Alta Loma today. We want to walk with you as you move forward on your journey toward recovery. Our dedicated team of mental health professionals will equip you with tools to conquer life’s challenges and continue on the path to wellness. Alta Loma is a substance abuse recovery and mental health facility designed for men and their unique needs. To start your journey toward good mental health, call us today at (866) 457-3843 for a consultation.