Any substance that is taken in excess, regardless of its harmful potential, is considered abuse. Addiction is then defined as the abusive behavior of those who are physically or psychologically dependent upon a substance; food can be that substance. In the same way as a drug or alcohol addiction, people eventually become dependent upon food. There is such a thing as food addiction and it is a serious issue.
How Food Addiction Develops
Just like drugs or alcohol, food has the potential to influence the brain’s reward system. Food can stimulate dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain, which in turn give the body energy, motivation, and even feel of pleasure or contentment. The body soon begins to crave the effects provided by the increase in dopamine and serotonin. Food, then, has unconsciously become the substance that someone uses for self-esteem rather than sustenance. The following are some of the underlying causes that can force a person into addiction and complete loss of control:
- Some people self-medicate pain with food.
- Emotional pain or trauma can cause a person to “eat her feelings.” Food can both stimulate emotions and also act as a coping mechanism for feelings of sadness or loneliness.
- People with a mental illness are more likely to develop a food addiction than those without one. For these people, food becomes the only thing that they can control. Food can also temporarily alleviate some low feelings associated with their illness and can calm feelings of anxiety or panic.
- Food addiction is also known to stem from physical or emotional abuse. People with low self-esteem tend to abuse food. Food can block unpleasant feelings and be used as a shortcut to false happiness.
- Food addiction can also stem from a body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which makes people obsessively concerned about and preoccupied with their body image.
How to Recognize a Food Addiction
To determine whether or not you need help with a food addiction, see if you display any of the following behaviors:
- Eat differently in front of others
- Eat alone or in secret
- Eat-in excess and later purge or take laxatives to get rid of the excess
- Feel guilty, confused, or let down after eating
- Continue to overconsume harmful foods
- Eat when not hungry
- Eat foods instinctively when feeling low or depressed
- Feel better after eating
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be facing an abuse problem larger than you had imagined.
Food Addiction Help
Food addiction can come with serious health consequences such as obesity, diabetes, bulimia, and gastric anomalies. Treating addiction requires much more than just dieting or cutting back. If you are interested in learning more about treatment for food addiction or other eating disorders, please call our toll-free helpline now. Our rehab counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you may have and can provide you with all the information you may be looking for. Your call is free and can let you finally speak to someone who understands what you are going through.