Food is not just a necessity for life, but it is also a means of social engagement and a source of pleasure. Humans use food beyond its nutrient value as a source of comfort, to celebrate special events, and to reward loved ones. For some, however, the desire and need to consume food can become uncontrollable and compulsive.
Food addiction has been a somewhat controversial topic in scientific circles, but the disorder has gained legitimacy thanks to several studies. It has now been shown that both sugar and fat produce opiates in the body. While a physician still will not give a “food addiction” diagnosis, the overeating and resulting harm associated with these activities are very real.
Fortunately, now there are also food addiction recovery services available for those who suffer from this type of eating disorder. Here are just five things you should know about food addiction, including a pathway to recovery.
Types of Food Addiction
Food addiction is a type of eating disorder. Two types of food addiction are binge eating and bulimia nervosa. Binge eating is compulsive overeating with the inability to control food intake. The food addict may have attempted at control through dieting, which often leads back to overeating in response to some emotional trigger. Bulimia is a dangerous cycle of overeating combined with purging to prevent weight gain. A bulimic person is often secretive about the disorder and obsessed with weight gain.
Causes of Food Addiction
Addiction itself is a complex disease. Once a line is crossed, there is no going back, and this is the same whether dealing with drugs, alcohol, or food. With food addiction, the intake of certain types of food act as a sort of drug that produces pleasure or a feeling of comfort, even when the body does not need the nutrients. One study found that food addiction occurs when a person’s neuroanatomy and neurochemistry become altered.
Symptoms of Food Addiction
Food addiction manifests differently depending on the person, and it is unfair to label someone as a food addict simply because he or she eats in a way that appears different from the norm. Humans have to eat to survive. Often, a food addict will have symptoms of other conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or depression. Common signs of food addiction include:
- Obsession with eating, meal times, and the quantity of food available
- Constant eating or snacking
- Eating in the middle of the night
- Hiding food or eating in secret
- Eating when full
- Feeling guilty after binge eating
- Failed attempts to control eating
Complications Associated with Food Addiction
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 35 percent of the adults in the U.S. are considered obese, which indicates that overeating is a serious problem nationally. Not everyone who suffers from food addiction is overweight, however. Regardless of whether a food addict is obese or not, this is a serious disorder that can have some lasting consequences.
Obesity and poor nutrition can lead to such issues as type 2 diabetes, increased risk of heart disease, and digestive issues. Bulimia can cause heart failure, tooth decay, and damage to the esophagus. These are just the physical complications. Often a food addict also suffers from depression, anxiety, and may even have family or financial troubles associated with overeating.
Food Addiction Recovery Options
Recovery from food addiction is different from recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction in one simple way. You cannot simply refrain from eating all together as a part of your recovery. Humans need to eat to live, so there has to be some form of behavioral change. One thing is certain. Food addiction is a problem that is unlikely to be solved without help.
There are several food addiction recovery options available if you or a loved are suffering from this eating disorder. Treatment for food addiction includes therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), nutritional therapies, and group support. Contact us to learn more about our food addiction recovery program or to discuss admission options.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider. View our editorial policy or view our research.