Treatment for Substance Abuse & Eating Disorders

Struggling with an eating disorder and substance abuse has a way of enveloping one’s life and sapping one’s vitality. Despite the adversity that these disorders can exert on your life, we, at Center for Hope of the Sierras, are steadfast in our belief that you are able to successfully recover from an eating disorder, and overcome the vicious cycle of substance abuse. We believe that there is always hope for growth and improvement, and we are here to walk alongside you as you rediscover a life free from these disorders.

Substance use disorders can have a powerful effect on a person’s life, and they are even more powerful when combined with an eating disorder. People with eating disorders often experience a great deal of emotional pain and may find themselves turning to substances in a misguided attempt to cope with it. Some may turn to alcohol, prescription drugs, cocaine, meth, or heroin to emotionally withdrawal from their strife. Once a person begins to use substances to cope, that individual may find him or herself further entrenched in the devastating symptoms of an eating disorder and substance abuse.

At Center for Hope, we know that addiction is powerful, especially when combined with an eating disorder, but we also know that its grip can be broken. When you come to heal with us, you are surrounding yourself with a staff whose expertise is exceeded only by their compassion and dedication to helping others. We have created specialized programs designed to meet your individual needs and give you the best chance at recovery so that you can finally rediscover a healthy life on your own terms.

get confidential help now: 775.204.0680 Email Us


If you are struggling with substance abuse and an eating disorder, you are not alone. Research cited by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) suggests that, tragically, 50% of people with an eating disorder are also diagnosed with a substance use disorder. This rate of substance abuse among people with eating disorders is nearly five times higher than the rate of substance abuse among the general population. In fact, NEDA indicates that substance abuse is the most common co-occurring mental health disorder among people with eating disorders.

Causes and Risk Factors for Substance Abuse among Those Suffering from Eating Disorders

While the exact causes of substance use disorders are not yet fully understood, experts agree that both genetic and environmental factors are at play in determining the cause of a person’s substance abuse. The most promising research is being conducted in the area of epigenetics, which studies how a person’s environment can “switch on” or “switch off” certain genes. The genetic and environmental risk factors for substance abuse can include:

Genetic: Genetic influences are powerful predictors of a person’s vulnerability to substance abuse. People whose parents or relatives struggle with substance abuse are more likely to abuse substances than are people who do not have a family history of substance abuse.

Environmental: While a vulnerability to substance abuse tends to run in families, one must also take into account a person’s environment. For example, in addition to passing down a potential genetic legacy of vulnerability to developing an addiction, some families create environments that may encourage substance abuse. Research suggests that people who are raised in homes where substance abuse is present, or where substances are readily available, are more likely to develop addiction problems later in life. One’s social life also can be a factor, as people are more likely to use substances if their friends also use.

Risk Factors:

  • History of chronic stress or abuse in one’s family of origin
  • Exposure to traumatic events
  • Suffering from chronic pain that requires a prescription for opioid painkillers
  • Having easy access to substances
  • Family history of mental illness or substance abuse
  • Personal history of mental illness

Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse among Those Suffering from Eating Disorders

Because of the wide variety of substances that one can abuse, the signs and symptoms of a substance use disorder are diverse. They may include:

Behavioral symptoms

  • Restlessness
  • Secretiveness about one’s activities or whereabouts
  • Attempting to obtain prescriptions for the same medication from multiple physicians
  • Deceptiveness, lying, or stealing
  • Diminished participation in activities one used to enjoy

Physical symptoms:

  • Bursts of energy or periods of lethargy
  • Changes in weight
  • Wounds or sores
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Problems with sleep
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Slurred speech

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Impaired memory
  • Poor concentration
  • Reduction in problem-solving abilities
  • Poor judgment
  • Confusion, disorientation, or delirium
  • Delays in thought processes

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Rapid changes in mood
  • Agitation or irritability
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Withdrawal from social relationships
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Substance Abuse among Those Suffering from Eating Disorders

If you struggle with an eating disorder and co-occurring substance use disorder for long enough without seeking treatment, it is possible to experience a number of harmful consequences. These consequences can include:

  • Damage to various organs and organ systems
  • Problems with thinking and cognition, such as memory disturbances
  • Stress or fracture of relationships
  • Declining performance at school or work, possibly leading to expulsion or loss of job
  • Financial strain
  • Loss of child custody
  • Development of worsening or additional mental health concerns
  • Overdose

Co-Occurring Disorders

People who have substance use disorders commonly also suffer from eating disorders. In addition to eating disorders, some people may meet criteria for other disorders, including:

  • Personality disorders
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Additional substance use disorders

Types of Treatment Offered at Center for Hope of the Sierras

Since 2003, we, at Center for Hope of the Sierras, have been dedicated to providing caring and compassionate treatment to adolescents and adults who are battling eating disorders. In addition to being a world-class eating disorder treatment center, our knowledgeable staff members are fully trained and qualified to treat an array of co-occurring conditions, including an addiction to substances.

Located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Center for Hope offers residential treatment for female adolescents and adults ages 16 and older, and outpatient treatment for male and female adolescents and adults, ages 14 and older. If you are battling an addiction, in addition to the symptoms of an eating disorder, the highly skilled staff at Center for Hope can provide individualized treatment that is tailored to meet your specific needs.

Nestled in a quiet neighborhood and surrounded by lush lawns and gorgeous trees, Center for Hope provides residential treatment in a beautiful, country-style home that sets the stage for a serene place to begin the healing process. In this cozy and comfortable setting, you will be provided with the opportunity to work with supportive staff members who dedicate themselves to creating a welcoming environment that is truly conducive to healing and lasting recovery. Because we value providing individualized treatment to all of our clients, we have designed our program to be one of the only programs in the country that accommodates individuals with celiac disease, and individuals who adhere to vegan and vegetarian diets.

At Center for Hope, our treatment is centered around the principles of intuitive eating, which encourages us to be mindful of our bodies’ needs. We believe that our bodies are able to signal us when they are full or when they are hungry, and because we believe that food works as fuel for our bodies, we are then free to listen to the signals our bodies send and attend to them by providing our bodies with the fuel they need to function well. Viewing food as fuel for our bodies allows us to remove a dieting mentality and, instead, experience joy in taking care of our bodies by providing them with the nutrition they need. We believe that developing this “ear” to listen to our bodies’ needs provides a foundation for lifelong healthy eating practices.

The process of helping you become an intuitive eater as you overcome your eating disorder and substance abuse includes a carefully-designed and personalized blend of therapeutic interventions. These interventions may include:

Medication management: If you are suffering from a co-occurring mental health condition in addition to an eating disorder and substance abuse problem, you may benefit from the implementation of certain psychotropic medications into your overall treatment plan. The use of any medication, however, is always determined on a case-by-case basis. You will have the opportunity to meet with a psychiatrist once a week, and registered nurses are available to handle all medication management services.

Individual therapy: You will meet with your primary therapist for individual therapy sessions three times each week. These one-to-one sessions are designed to be a time for you to process through your experience in treatment while also discussing any concerns that you have or any distresses that are plaguing you in a private, confidential setting.

Group therapy: One of the core components of treatment at Center for Hope is group therapy. Led by therapists and social workers, you will participate in two to three groups each day, Monday through Friday. The specific types of groups and the topics discussed in those groups will vary but may include the following:

  • Family systems
  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Music and art appreciation
  • Mindful eating
  • ACT
  • Body image
  • DBT
  • Process group
  • Anxiety management
  • Life skills
  • Recovery maintenance

Experiential therapy: In order to offer a well-rounded approach to treatment, you will be provided with multiple opportunities to engage in experiential therapies every week. These therapies are designed to expand upon the more traditional therapies offered and may include the following:

  • Massage
  • Yoga (offered 1-2 times each week)
  • Cooking class
  • Creative expressions
  • Music appreciation
  • Equine therapy (Nevada Equine Assisted Therapy offered on a weekly basis)
  • Reiki

In addition to the previously mentioned therapeutic interventions, you may also be transported to 12-Step meetings three to five times per week during your stay in Center for Hope’s residential program to help support you as you work to find freedom from addiction.

Recognizing that comprehensive treatment does not end when residential treatment is complete, Center for Hope of the Sierras is pleased to offer a full continuum of outpatient treatment services. Including both a partial hospitalization program and an intensive outpatient program, these outpatient services are designed to ensure that you receive the support you need to continue on your recovery journey. Therapists will collaborate with you during your stay in the residential program to make sure that you are comfortable with the transition process as you move into your next level of care. Additionally, Center for Hope’s aftercare coordinator will check in with you in consistent intervals for up to six months following your discharge.

If you are suffering from an eating disorder while also fighting an addiction to substances, look no further than Center for Hope of the Sierras. Our dedicated staff will work with you every step of the way as you make successful strides towards healing. Here, you will receive compassionate care in a supportive environment that will help you remain on the path to lasting recovery.

get confidential help now: 775.204.0680 Email Us