Versão em Português

What is drunkorexia?

01 Abril 2021

Understand how alcohol abuse can be accompanied by disorders in eating behavior.

The term “drunkorexia” was initially used by the media, and although it is not considered a medical term, it refers to the overlapping of harmful alcohol consumption with tendencies to eating disorders, and has been subject of research in recent years. In this sense, there is a proposal to change the term “drunkorexia” to Food and Alcohol Disturbance (FAD), which we can freely translate as “Eating and Alcohol Consumption Disorder” (1). It is a phenomenon present mainly in university students, most of them female, although it can also occur in men. The individual with this problem makes significant dietary restrictions when planning to drink alcohol, to “save” calories, or adopts compensatory behaviors, such as inducing vomiting, using diuretics/laxatives, or strenuous physical activity (2). In countries like Australia, for example, FAD was declared a public health problem, in view of the rapid growth among university students (3).

Most people who present this condition report weight control as their main motivation. In general, they consume alcohol frequently and abusively (engaging in BPE*), and have the belief that this use will lead to weight gain. Therefore, if they also present a pathological fear of gaining weight, obsessive preoccupation with thinness and food or body image distortion, they will be more prone to the development of FAD (4). It is worth remembering that sociocultural aspects also participate in the understanding of the problem, with the highly prevalent beauty ideal of slim bodies, especially for women, in contemporary Western society. And this problem is aggravated by the effects that harmful alcohol consumption can have on women's bodies.

Substituting food for alcoholic beverages is quite dangerous, as are other forms of compensation. Alcoholic beverages contain "empty calories", that is, despite providing energy, they do not offer nutrients, and with an inadequate diet, a lack of essential elements for the body's functioning can occur. Depending on the case, alterations in the balance of basic blood elements may occur, without which the heart and brain become seriously ill (1,2).

Abusive alcohol use is associated with many negative consequences, and when drunkorexia occurs, the risk for such consequences is even greater. Therefore, measures that contribute to people's awareness of the problem, as well as scientifically based public policies, especially focused on women, are necessary to contain and prevent this issue.


*HED: Defined by the World Health Organization as the consumption of at least 60 grams or more of pure alcohol (about 5-6 drinks) on at least one occasion in the past 30 days. In Brazil, one (1) standard drink contains approximately 14 g of pure alcohol, the equivalent of a can of beer (330 ml) or a dose of spirits (30 ml) or a glass of wine (100 ml).



Additional Info

  • Referências:

    (1) Choquette, E. M., Rancourt, D., & Kevin Thompson, J. (2018). From fad to FAD: a theoretical formulation and proposed name change for “drunkorexia” to food and alcohol disturbance (FAD). International Journal of Eating Disorders, 51(8), 831-834.

    (2) Ward, R. M., & Galante, M. (2015). Development and initial validation of the Drunkorexia Motives and Behaviors scales. Eating behaviors, 18, 66-70.

    (3) Knight, A., & Simpson, S. (2013). Drunkorexia: an empirical investigation of disordered eating in direct response to saving calories for alcohol use amongst Australian female university students. Journal of Eating Disorders, 1(1), P6.

    (4) Nazar, B. P., Chaim, C. H. & Worcman, N. (2013). Anorexia Nervosa: Aspectos Prognósticos e Diagnósticos. Prodiretrizes - Programa de Atualização, 4, 21-53.

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