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How to Recognize the Presence of a Co-Occurring Condition

Eating disorders rarely exist in isolation, and they are often accompanied by other mental health conditions. These associated mental health conditions will differ for each individual. Understanding the relationship between eating disorders and co-occurring mental health issues is paramount for effective co-occuring disorder treatment.

Co-occurring disorders refer to an individual’s experience of two or more mental health diagnoses simultaneously. For those dealing with eating disorders, this means focusing on treating the eating disorder and the other mental health condition. If you’re searching for co-occurring disorder treatment near Madison, WI, Inner Haven Wellness is here to assist.

A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Eating Disorders in September 2022 found that the most prevalent psychiatric comorbidities include anxiety (up to 62%), mood (up to 54%), substance use, and post-traumatic stress disorders (both up to 27%).

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) provides information regarding co-occurring disorders on their website, noting a lifetime prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders exceeding 40% across anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder (BED).

While a range of co-occurring mental health disorders can accompany eating disorders, the disorders listed below are some of the most common, though this list is not exhaustive.

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Mood Disorders

As noted by NIMH, mood disorders closely follow anxiety disorders as the second most prevalent co-occurring disorders for individuals with eating disorders. Depression is the most common mood disorder. Research suggests that mood disorders can lead to the development of eating disorders to cope with the feelings of depression or anxiety. Similar to anxiety disorders, treating mood disorders alongside eating disorders leads to the best clinical outcomes.

Common signs and symptoms of mood disorders include but are not limited to:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Constant focus on past experiences
  • Irritability, anxiousness, and guilt
  • Reduced motivation to complete normal daily tasks
  • Previously simple tasks or responsibilities feeling overwhelmingly difficult
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Extreme sleeping patterns, either too much or too little
  • Suicidal thoughts, attempts of suicide, non-suicidal self-injurious behaviors
  • Changes in appetite

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Anxiety Disorders

As per the NIMH review, anxiety disorders are the most common co-occurring mental health diagnosis alongside eating disorders. The risk factors for both disorders can be similar, as they can manifest in individuals struggling with rigidity of thought and perfectionistic tendencies. Regardless of the order of each disorder’s appearance, it is preferable to treat both concurrently as opposed to sequentially.

Common signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders include but are not limited to:

  • Rigid/inflexible thought patterns
  • Consistent feelings of being “on edge”
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom constantly
  • Consistent feelings of worry about events that may or may not happen in the future
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Feeling weak with a lack of motivation
  • Difficulty completing daily tasks due to anxiety
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Trauma severely impacts the psychological, neurological, and sociological functioning of those affected. Trauma is linked with all eating disorder diagnoses, particularly with bulimia nervosa. Eating disordered behaviors, particularly purging behaviors, serve to facilitate avoidance of traumatic material and to numb the hyperarousal and emotional pain associated with traumatic memories and thoughts. Additionally, those with a PTSD diagnosis tend to experience an increased disconnect from the body and emotions as well as dissociative states, all of which can also contribute to eating disorder development.

Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

The third most prevalent co-occurring disorder, according to NIMH, is substance use disorder (SUD) which affects a quarter to a third of individuals with eating disorders. SUDs tend to slightly more commonly affect those struggling with bulimia nervosa. Eating disorders and SUDs can be used as a way to alter one’s mood from unwanted emotional and physical sensations. Together, the eating disorder and SUD can progressively intensify as neither behavior works long term and often creates more suffering in the individual’s life. Treating both conditions simultaneously is preferred.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Research indicates that long-term positive treatment outcomes are more likely when co-occurring disorders are treated simultaneously. If you or a loved one is in need of eating disorder treatment and suffer from a co-occurring condition, our team is equipped to help.

Our care team has a diverse skill set and background, which equips us to address co-occurring disorders that may present themselves during treatment. We make sure to screen for other mental disorders and we develop treatment plans that reflect the inclusion of the co-occurring disorder.

We’re committed to providing holistic care for people suffering with eating disorders and co-occurring disorders.

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Common Ground
Dean Health Plan
Mercy Care
Network Health
Tricare East
Trilogy for eating disorder treatment
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Evernorth for eating disorder treatment
Optum for eating disorder treatment
Group Health Cooperative
Eating Disorder Treatment Center Near Appleton WI

You Deserve to Find Healing

Our multidisciplinary leadership team of compassionate experts collectively brings decades of experience working with individuals and families suffering from anorexia and co-occurring disorders. Our team is from Wisconsin and we are passionate about serving our local community.

We believe that all of us have an inner haven inside. A place we can go to access the tools for wellness. Sometimes we just need help finding it. That’s what Inner Haven Wellness does. We give you the guidance and the space you need to grow and heal from anorexia.