Individuals who suffer from a food addiction form a obsessive-compulsive relationship with food. It is similar to alcohol and drug addiction but the addiction is to a process not a substance. It is marked by a preoccupation with food, the availability of food and the anticipation of the good feelings derived from eating food. Food addiction involves the repetitive eating of food when an individual knows that they should not eat in this way. This may result in a loss of control and preoccupation or the restriction of food and/or preoccupation with weight and body image.
Food Addiction Symptoms Include:
- Eating when not hungry
- Eating when feeling low or depressed
- Eating in secret
- Binging and purging
- Eating foods that are known to be harmful
- Experiencing feelings of guilt
Warning Signs of Food Addiction
Many food addicts will not even realize they have a problem. It seems to be a way of life. Sometimes an intervention from family and friends are the only way the food addict is able to admit they have a problem. Early detection and intervention is important for the individual’s chances of recovery. It is important to look for the following early warning signs.
Early Warning Signs Include:
- Obsession with food
- Eats to relieve worry or stress
- Eats until they feel so full they are sick
- Feelings of anxiety while eating which results in more eating
- Overeats because the food is available
- Eats fast so they can eat more
- Eats everything on the plate even when they feel full
- Feels guilty when they overeat
- Hides food so they can eat in secret out of sight
- Goes on a food binge after dieting
- Views food as something to be avoided
Compulsive over-eaters use food to numb unpleasant feelings or to be happy. The individual becomes addicted to the feelings induced by the consumption of food. Over-eaters demonstrate uncontrollable binge eating consuming large quantities of food and generally do not obsess about weight control or body image. Most compulsive overeaters present with moderate to severe obesity. Binge eating episodes consist of carbohydrates and junk food with most binges done in scheduled secret.
Night Eating Syndrome
Night Eating Syndrome is a disorder where an individual wakes up several times during the night and is unable to fall back asleep unless they eat something. Foods eaten during the binge are often high in calories and unhealthy. The night eating behavior seems totally beyond the effected individual’s control almost as if they were sleep walking. Following the night binge, the person is often not hungry in the morning and they eat less during the day.
Possible Causes of Night Eating Syndrome Include:
- Interpersonal stressors
- Prolonged dieting
- Body image dissatisfaction.
Co-occurring disorders commonly exist with food addiction.
Common Co-Occurring Disorders Include:
- Food Allergies
Food Addiction Treatment
Treating a food addiction requires intense discipline in modifying eating behaviors and lifestyle. A manageable exercise program is recommended along with dietary changes. It is always suggested to contact an eating disorder professional or eating disorder program for an evaluation and medical monitoring. Inpatient treatment centers are the preferred choice for eating disorder treatment. Cognitive Behavioral therapy, psychotherapy and 12 step groups have proven helpful in treating food addiction.