Compulsive overeating is also called food addiction and refers to people with an obsessive relationship to food. People who suffer from this disorder usually experience episodes of uncontrolled eating or binge eating, in which they continue to consume food after being comfortably full. After they binge they can suffer from feeling of guilt and depression, they also do not attempt to compensate for their overeating by vomiting or the use of a laxative. Compulsive eaters will also eat when they are not hungry and can spend an excessive amount of time and thought devoted to food, and will fantasize about eating alone.
While food addiction can lead to weight gain not everyone who suffers from it is obese or overweight. People of average weight can also be affected. Some do not engage in the ‘stuffing’ behavior but eat smaller amounts throughout the day, which still results in large number of calories that are consumed. Overeaters consume large amounts of food and will ingest 5,000 to 15,000 calories a day.
Compulsive eating can lead to some serious medical conditions if it goes untreated. Those suffering from food addiction can develop high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, sleep apnea, major depression, kidney disease, arthritis, bone deterioration and stroke. Many also suffer from low self-esteem from their actions or the resulting weight gain.
Some find the binging creates a temporary release from psychological stress and can be seen as a high for food addicts. The ingestion of food can release the neurotransmitter, serotonin, which is responsible for a feeling of well-being. Eating too much fatty food for a prolonged period of time can overload pleasure centers in the brain like drug addiction. The centers eventually crash and to achieve the same pleasure or to feel normal begins to require an increasing amount of food.
The treatment for compulsive eating is complicated because one cannot simply become abstinent from food. Unlike drug treatment food is required to survive, and most people eat two or three times a day. Counseling and therapy can be effective treatment for this disorder because it is thought to stem from behavioral patterns developed as a response to emotional struggles, which need to be resolved to help recovery from food addiction. There is also Overeaters Anonymous, which is a twelve step program based on the principles of alcoholics anonymous. Nutritional and physical therapy can also be effective in combating this addiction. An estimated eighty percent of those who seek professional treatment are successful in recovering or significantly reducing their symptoms.
Food addiction can be treated at a drug rehab. You can seek professional help to gain tools to deal with the difficult parts of life. If you or a loved one has a problem with an eating disorder, please seek help from a treatment center or clinical counseling. There are 12-step programs like Overeaters Anonymous that are also available.