Alcoholism is not an uncommon co-occuring disorder in those with eating disorders including binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating. About one-third of women with an eating disorder will also have alcohol problems. Up to 25% of those with anorexia nervosa and over half of those with bulimia will also have a substance use disorder, many of them alcoholics. Alcoholism in women can lead to many unfortunate consequences. I have patients who are young women who started drinking in high school and / or college and may have been taken advantage of or who were given the date rate drug in their drink. Despite the comedians joking about drunk girls, these experiences can scan a young woman for life.
Many women are successful in their careers and highly functioning alcoholics. They try to tightly control their drinking but who eventually find out that they too are powerless to control their addiction. Women with children often feel a lot of shame and guilt about how their drinking has affected their families and their children. Marriages can be broken which can further impact children.
Overall, I think eating disorders and alcoholism are especially suited partners in the way in which women, in particular, use them to escape their pain. Perhaps the pain is from growing up themselves in an alcoholic family or trauma they experienced earlier in life. Or maybe they have the higher genetic risk for alcohol. No matter what the cause, alcoholism and eating disorder are soul-destroyers. They can take you from your destined path, many lose years and decades to their disease. They may start out as perfect solutions to pain but end up being the cause of more pain.
I like working with alcoholic women as they tend to be more sensitive emotionally – a trait that is both a benefit and a curse. Learning to manage their sensitivity is important as is the practice of surrendering their will, their need for control to something outside themselves. This is the way out of hell and it is one of the most difficult parts of the journey to healing. Surrender fosters hope, replacing the hopelessness that is the sign of a spirit in jeopardy.