Co-occurring food addiction sometimes accompanies other addictions or mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. Food addiction can present as an eating disorder, including anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. Food addictions often arise as a way to cope with stress and trauma, but impact brain chemistry in a way that makes them difficult to stop even after the trauma ends.
One aspect of food addiction and eating disorders is compulsive eating or sometimes compulsive dieting behavior. Compulsive dieting or eating may initially be an effort to exercise control over one part of a life that may feel out of control, but compulsive behavior eventually leads to a loss of control as brain chemistry takes over.
How Food Addiction Differs From Eating Disorders
Although both food addiction and eating disorders involve compulsive behavior and disordered eating behaviors, addiction experts have determined that there are some pathologies in food addiction that do not necessarily appear in eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or BED.
While eating disorders usually arise from the desire to lose weight, attain a particular body shape, or control your surroundings, food addiction is usually more about trying to achieve satisfaction through food, satisfaction that usually does not come no matter how much you eat.
Food addiction can have detrimental effects on the health of addicts, including obesity, digestive problems, and long-term health impacts like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. It can also cause or co-occur with mental health disorders or other conditions like ADD or anxiety disorders, making it complex to treat.
Treating Food Addiction
Getting help for food addiction requires gaining a full understanding of what has contributed to the addiction and developing strategies to help combat the condition. Unlike alcohol or drugs, people cannot completely abstain from food, but they can learn to avoid trigger foods and develop methods of overcoming the compulsion to overeat or binge on certain foods.
In order to be physically and mentally healthier, behavior modification, psychotherapy, and even certain medications or medical interventions can help to short-circuit the compulsion to overeat or eat too much of some foods.
Like any addiction, food addiction changes your brain and causes neurotransmitters to release too much dopamine and other chemicals that lead to eating more and more junk food to achieve the same effect. In many cases, time in an addiction treatment program is needed to break the hold of food over an addict’s life.
You may think you should be able to handle your eating problems on your own like other people seem to do, but the record rates of obesity today suggest that many people struggle to control their eating and fight a losing battle against their body’s chemistry. When food addiction is coupled with other substance abuse or mental disorders, treating the co-occurring disorders can be helpful to overall health and well-being.
Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is a Colorado drug rehab that treats addiction to many different substances, including food addiction and co-occurring disorders. Learn about admissions to see how you can get help with food and other addictions as well as co-occurring disorders that often accompany substance abuse.
The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.