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Dual Diagnosis Experiences in Latino/as

Eating disorders and co-occuring substance abuse

By Shilloy Sanchez, MFTI
Published on LatinoLA: November 7, 2014


Dual Diagnosis Experiences in Latino/as


When you have both an eating disorder and an addiction to alcohol or drugs it is referred to as Dual Diagnosis or a Co-Occurring disorder. Someone with a dual diagnosis will experience each condition aggravating the other and both contributing to the overall quality of life. It is very common for individuals suffering from an eating disorder to have a co-occurring addiction to alcohol or drugs.

In their recent International Journal for Eating Disorders study Margarita Alegria, et al., revealed that disordered eating behavior among minorities often goes unnoticed until it reaches dangerous levels. Up until recently the Latino/a population was thought to be culturally immune to eating disorders because there was this belief that Latinos/as, particularly Latina women, placed less emphasis on physical appearance and above all else took pride on a stable family structure. The truth is Latinos/as who were either born in the United States or who have spent more than 70% of their life time here are at higher risk for bingeing, purging and overly restrictive dieting.

According to the International Journal of Addition, recent research points to an alarming increase among Latino/a adolescents and young adults in risky behavior including underage drinking, prescription drug abuse and chemical dependency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 80% of the excess mortality among Latino/a Americans stems from various health concerns among which is chemical dependency.

Eating disorders and chemical dependency exists in the Latino/a community and their simultaneous presence is a growing problem ÔÇô one that often goes undiagnosed, is underreported and, more often than not, kept a secret from family and friends! As the largest growing minority population in America, these life threatening struggles are likely touch someone you know or maybe even you.

You Are Not Alone

Effective treatment for co-occurring disorders begins with getting the professional help and support. Previously considered to be only an "upper white middle class" issue most treatment programs now considers cross cultural challenges, such as acculturation, when addressing eating disorders and chemical dependency. Successful treatment always involves an environment that is structured; yet nurturing. Some of that nurturing would involve an individualized plan to reconnect with self-compassion, acceptance, positive self-esteem, trust, healthy boundaries and a new appreciation for your body.

Help Is Here ÔÇô Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Treatment for the dual diagnosis of eating disorders and chemical dependency consists of a variety of clinical interventions that identifies, evaluates and treats both conditions. Among those are:

Group Therapy
Individual Psychotherapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Family Therapy
Regular psychiatric and medical consultations.
No matter the style or combination of therapies the thing to remember is that you are whole; some pieces just need to be put back together.

If you or a loved one is in need of support for dual diagnosis treatment, please contact our Admissions & Intake team at 818.585.1775.

About Shilloy Sanchez, MFTI:
Shilloy Sanchez is the Program Director at The Bella Speranza Residential Treatment Center. She is passionate about helping people get in touch with their resiliency to create real and lasting change. Shilloy has been a part of The Bella Vita since 2012.
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