Women with substance use issues are more likely to also struggle with eating issues than women without substance issues, and similarly, women with eating issues are at increased risk for substance use problems. In both these groups of women, a common risk factor is impulsivity. “Recent research has identified that negative urgency, the tendency to act rashly in response to negative affect, is a contributor to distress-driven rash or impulsive action,” said Sarah Fischer of the University of Georgia and lead author of a study exploring the link between impulsivity and these mental health issues. “There is both theoretical and empirical support for the hypothesis that negative urgency is an important risk factor for both alcohol problems and eating disorders. Indeed, researchers have proposed that both alcohol abuse and binge eating/purging serve emotion regulation functions by distracting individuals from stress or negative affect. Similarly, negative urgency is also consistently associated with problem drinking or symptoms of alcohol abuse in clinical, community, college student, and child samples.”
Fischer and her colleagues evaluated 104 women who were enrolled in treatment programs for substance use or food problems. They discovered that the women with a substance use, food or depression issue, exhibited higher levels of negative urgency than the group with no mental health problems. They added that when they examined a sampling of fifth-grade girls for the same traits, the findings were strikingly similar. They added, “Girls who tend to act rashly when distressed and girls who tend to act without forethought were more likely to have consumed a full drink of alcohol or engaged in binge eating while still in elementary school.” The team concluded, “This finding is consistent with our theory that the trait of negative urgency contributes to the comorbidity of alcohol problems and eating disorders in women, and is also consistent with research indicating that both heavy drinking and binge eating often occur during negative mood states.”
Fischer, S., Settles, R., Collins, B., Gunn, R., & Smith, G. T. (2011, May 23). The Role of Negative Urgency and Expectancies in Problem Drinking and Disordered Eating: Testing a Model of Comorbidity in Pathological and At-Risk Samples. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0023460
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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