Can You Be Addicted to Food?
Food addiction is difficult for those who have no personal experience with the subject to comprehend – just as those suffering from drug addiction and alcoholism are commonly faced with misunderstanding and discrimination from individuals who have not walked a mile in their shoes. Even drug addicts sometimes misunderstand food addiction, claiming that something involving a non-addictive substance cannot possibly be nearly as devastating as a physical and mental dependence on pills, booze, or the likes. As it turns out, studies show that those who suffer from food addiction experience a psychological response similar to those who suffer from substance dependency.
Experiments in both humans and animals prove that the same neurological reward centers that are stimulated by addictive chemical substances such as alcohol, heroin, and cocaine are activated by highly palatable foods – foods high in fat, salt, or sugar content. When an individual experiences intense feelings of pleasure as a result of eating certain foods (as dopamine is released into the brain), he or she will feel the need to eat again once that feeling has dissipated. Therefore, food addiction and drug addiction affect individuals somewhat similarly – although physical symptoms are typically unalike, the emotional and mental torment caused by the unrelenting cravings and impulsive compliance is devastatingly comparable.
Signs and Symptoms of Food Addiction
Those who suffer from food addiction will typically develop tolerances to food over time, much like drug addicts and alcoholics develop tolerances to their chemical substances of choice. What does tolerance mean by way of the food addict? The amount of palatable foods a food addict eats will likely increase over time, seeing as a greater amount of food will need to be consumed in order for the same amount of pleasure to be experienced. After a while, feelings of satisfaction and contentment will begin to be almost impossible to obtain, and the desire to once again achieve the initial feelings of gratification that food produced will override physical, mental, and interpersonal consequences. Food addicts will typically continue eating despite fullness, leading to serious health complications such as obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. However, food addicts can be of average weight – and frequently are. They may be genetically predisposed to metabolize food quickly, or they may compensate for their excessive food intake with hours of daily exercise.
If you are addicted to food, you may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Inability to control portions when eating certain types of food
- Eating certain types of food secretly or in private
- Going out of your way to obtain certain types of food when they are not available
- Continuing to eat even when you’re no longer hungry
- Eating despite fullness
- Eating to the point of physical illness
- You avoid certain social situations where certain types of food will be present for fear of publically overeating
- Your performance at work or school is compromised because of your relationship with food and eating
- You begin spending less time with friends and family members because of your eating and the consequences of continuous overeating
- Eating often causes you to feel depressed, anxious, guilty, or shameful
- The amount of food you used to consume no longer triggers the same feelings of satisfaction and pleasure, and you begin eating greater quantities of food in attempts to produce the same results
Help for Food Addiction
Food addiction is an extremely common disorder, though it is rarely openly discussed for widespread lack of understanding and empathy. If you or someone you love is suffering from food addiction, help is available. Many inpatient drug rehabs offer dual diagnosis disorder tracks, many of which focus on eating disorders of all kinds. For more information on our dual diagnosis program of addiction recovery, please contact one of our trained representatives today.