Tuesday, August 28, 2007

One disease to diagnose us all?

The Washington Post ran an article today by Maia Szalavitz called, "So, What Made Me an Addict?"

The article is long and involved (and rather convoluted, in my opinion.) Here is my thought:

What if alcohol/drug abuse and eating disorders are merely different symptoms of the same disease?

The more I read about sufferers from alcohol/drug/etc. addictions/abuse and eating disorders, the more similarities I find. Most sufferers find a behavior to use as a coping mechanism. Most sufferers need to find other ways to cope to recover (usually by reaching out and connecting with others.) Most sufferers start out with low self-esteem which needs to grow in recovery.

So my next question is this: why is the medical community spending lots of time and money trying to figure out the details of each "symptom" separately? Is anyone investigating the whole disease?

Personally, I think changing the name of the National Institute on Drug Abuse to the National Institute on Diseases of Addiction would be wise, perhaps they could "prove" that there is one disease which encompasses all these things. And then, maybe with the combined numbers of all sufferers put together, treatment options will open up for everyone, especially for those whose insurance won't cover at all or not enough of the treatment needed.

Just a thought...


Faith said...

Wow Jeanne - all making me think! I guess I knew all of that somewhere, intellectually, but I've never put all the pieces together.

We are all suffering. We all needed to cope with something beyond our ability and we all chose different ways of coping. It seems like, in some way, the disease is just childhood. Some of us were afflicted with a childhood that failed to meet our needs - my childhood failed to meet my needs, anyway.

Thanks for this today Jeanne.

Jeanne said...

My childhood failed to meet my needs, too, faith. I was never taught how to cope, never taught that my emotions are natural and okay, never taught that it was okay to be me. Maybe not having my basic emotional needs met triggered my genetic predisposition for EDs? Just like not having enough vitamin C triggers our bodies to develop scurvy. (Okay, not a fabulous one-to-one example, but still...)

Wow. The pieces do fit together, huh?

Maybe I am on to something?

Thanks, faith!

Eve said...

I think you are definitely on to something! It's definitely something that should be investigated further, I think.

em said...

That is interesting. I've certainly felt that bingeing was a "drug" for me... and my childhood definitely failed to meet my needs (esp. concerning my emotions etc.)


disordered girl said...

I totally agree with eating disorders being an addiction, and I wish more was said in the public eye to equate the two.

Interestingly, the A&E show Intervention will sometimes have interventions for people with EDs.

Anonymous said...

You stepcraft people are really funny sometimes.

Sarah said...

Wow, this is fascinating. I definitely have some opinions on this from my own experiences. I liked how the article differentiated between substance addiction and behavior addiction. Drug and alcohol abuse changes the brains of addicts. This is a fact. But, in my opinion, behavior (like ED) can be just as addictive even if you can't measure the consquences in blood and brain chemistry.

In AA, many of us say that "alcohol is a symptom. We have a spiritual malady."

Take away the alcohol and you still have the "ism." You still need to find a way to manage these feelings and needs. I think what I have been experiencing is a good example of that.

I know that the more I work on my alcoholism and my ED, the more it becomes clear to me that they come from the same place.

I hope this rambly comment makes sense. I found this really, really interesting.


Jeanne said...

Thanks! The only way any theory is proven is by investigations…

Yeah, I’ve always thought of restricting as my “drug” of choice. I’m sorry that your childhood didn’t meet your needs either. But we can learn; we ARE learning in spite of it.

I’ve never watched Intervention – sounds like an interesting show. I’m glad they have people with EDs on it as well. I, too, wish more was said as well…

Made sense to me, Sarah.

I’d have to do more research, but I think I read somewhere where scientists are finding out that behaviors also change the brain of people – sometimes positive, sometimes negative. Or maybe the brains of those with EDs were different to begin with? I can’t remember.

Righteous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Righteous said...

nd some of us were afflicted with being sent to rehabs (many who never did a drug in their life but were sent because they had an eating disorder although it doesnt matter what the problem no child deserves abuse, no human does). These kids had to endure mental, physical and emotional abuse in the name of rehab. Most of the article's Maia writes focus on the money making "troubled teen industry" this nation is profitting on. Check out her book sometime, Help at any Cost.


Jeanne said...


I'm so sorry that you were sent to such a horrid, abusive place. You're right, no child deserves to be abused in any way.

Thank you for stopping here.