'Drunkorexia' combines not eating and binge drinking

'Drunkorexia' combines binge drinking and not eating

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ATLANTA -

A dangerous trend on college campuses has some people mixing two dangerous conditions. Young women are starving themselves and then binge drinking. They call it "drunkorexia."

The trend is intoxicatingly simple:  you cut back on calories, and then let loose on alcohol.

At 18, Tifani Skrezyna couldn't wait to get out on her own, but college wasn't what she expected.

"I didn't feel like I fit in. And it was that same feeling from when I was a kid and I didn't fit in and I was disappointed and I didn't know how to tell anyone back home that it wasn't what I expected," she said.

Tifani had already battled anorexia in high school. She thought she was recovered, until she stepped onto a college campus and was introduced to drinking.

"All of a sudden I didn't feel so socially awkward, I felt like I could talk to people more," Skrezyna said.

As time went on, Tifani says she fell back into old habits, restricting her eating, to make room for alcohol.

"College was pretty much  the perfect storm for me," she said.

Jennifer Harcourt, a licensed professional counselor at The Renfrew Center in Atlanta, says "drunkorexia" is not an actual diagnosis, but there's a lot of talk about it in the eating disorders community.

"I know our organization is seeing young women who are in fact doing this and consuming large amount of alcohol as opposed to eating.  And that's tricky.  Their treatment becomes a bit more complicated at that point," said Harcourt.

Harcourt continued, "You have to consider if there's detox issues, you have to consider if there are withdrawal issues.  You have to consider if there are medical issues that we have to be very mindful of,"

And there's the issue of safety.  

The National Institutes of Health estimates about 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of an alcohol-related date rape, or sexual assault every year in this country.

Harcourt says binge drinking can put young women at risk.

"Making compromising decisions...Putting themselves into positions where they're not able to make good decisions regarding their body, or whether it be regarding their social interaction," said Harcourt.

And there's a physical toll, when alcoholism and anorexia collide.

"Not only are you dealing with the internal damage that the binge drinking causes to, again, your liver your brain, other essential systems.  But also, at the same time, you're most likely malnourished and possibly losing really important, protective lean body mass," said Jean Alves a clinical nutritionist.

Tifani has come a long way since college. She's now married, and a mother of two. She's been sober and free of her eating disorder for five years.

"And I now realize why, and that I don't have to beat myself up, and I don't have to look at it as a bad thing. It can just be a part of my past, but not something that defines who I am as a person," she said.

Health experts say the first six weeks of freshman year are an especially vulnerable time for heavy drinking and alcohol related problems.

Research shows about 80 percent of college students drink and almost 20 percent have report binge drinking over the last two weeks.

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