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When Does Eating Become an Addiction?

Food is a necessity of life along with being a source of pleasure and a method of engaging socially with people. We can use food for comfort, to care for our loved ones and even celebrate holidays or special events with sumptuous meals. However, it can become an addiction for some people when they begin to feel the need to consume food compulsively and without control. Food addiction begins at this stage when people begin to overeat despite trying to control their addictive behavior with the help of dieting or regulation.

Food is a necessity for physical survival unlike substances like alcohol and drugs. Food can trigger changes in the brain to create feelings of comfort and pleasure. People who are afflicted by food addiction generally prefer to have palatable foods that are rich in fat and sugar which offers them a feeling of pleasure. However, the positive responses which they feel are soon followed by feelings of guilt and discomfort which are similar to the feelings felt by users of substances like alcohol, illicit drugs, tobacco, Etc.

Therefore it can be confirmed overeating can develop into food addiction.

Food Addiction Is Common In America

Approximately 35% of the American population is obese which is a clear indication that the problem of overeating is proven to be a threat to public health. Food addiction has the potential to lead to weight gain although not everyone who suffers from this problem is overweight or obese.

Studies conducted have revealed the information that food addiction is more common among people who are underweight and therefore a decision cannot be made about the onset of food addiction simply by considering the weight of the individual. It will become essential to consider the behavioral patterns of individuals and their inability to refrain from addictive food behaviors and remorse after overtaking before any conclusion can be made.

The Definition Of Food Addiction

Addictions are generally associated with substances that are harmful and include alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs. However, it has been observed that the brain can even develop a dependency on healthy substances such as food. Food addiction can be characterized by observing the following addictive behaviors.

  • Obsessive cravings for food within an individual who is preoccupied with getting the food and consuming it.
  • Food addicts continue misusing the food despite the serious health consequences which can follow.
  • Food addicts attempt to stop their behavior but often relapse and revert back to their addictive behaviors.
  • They have no control over how much they eat, the frequency of the eating or the location where they have the food.
  • Food addicts will begin to display a negative impact on their work, financial status, family life and other activities because of their addiction.
  • Their desire to consume more food to get a sense of emotional release is overwhelming.
  • They develop a pattern of eating simply to avoid negative attention from people around them.

Initially, food addiction may seem harmless when it is compared to an addiction to alcohol, heroin or methamphetamines and could even give the addict a feeling that he or she is not indulging in harmful behavior. However compulsive overeating can leave a negative impact on the physical and emotional health of the individual and therefore it would be essential for them to consider getting the addiction treated at the earliest.

The Treatment For Food Addictions

Treating addictions of food can be considered as a multidimensional process because the physical, emotional and psychological issues of the addict must be addressed during the treatment.

It can be challenging to break destructive eating habits particularly if the individual would be suffering from underlying mental conditions. If the individual is also abusing alcohol or drugs simultaneously he or she would require specialized attention for these problems along with the eating disorder.

The objective of food addiction treatment is to help the client to replace his or her dysfunctional eating patterns with healthy habits. It would also require addressing co-occurring conditions like depression and anxiety by helping the client to develop a stronger and a positive image for themselves.

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