Are Eating Disorders a Type of Addiction?

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Eating disorders are conditions that affect an individual’s intake of food, causing them to either severely overeat or to not consume enough food to stay healthy. They also usually involve a serious fixation on one’s weight, body shape, and eating habits. But is there a distinction between an addiction and an eating disorder?

Eating Disorders as Addictions

According to the National Library of Medicine, “Eating disorders are serious behavior problems,” which is similar to how many people would describe an addiction, or a damaging behavior that an individual cannot control and continues to engage in over and over. There are other ways in which eating disorders and addictions are similar as well.

  • Eating disorders require a similar type of treatment to that which helps addicts recover: behavioral therapy and, in some cases, medication. Usually, though, counseling is the best and most successful option for the treatment of both issues.
  • The relapse rates for people with eating disorders are similar to those associated with addiction. This is because both types of disorders are chronic, can last for months or years before the individual finds help, and even then, can cause relapse after treatment.
  • Both issues cause individuals to act strangely and for them to engage in secretive and dangerous behavior because they cannot stop. They often will refuse help at first as well, as denial can be a strong part of both problems.

For these reasons, there is a clear similarity between the two issues. However, it can be difficult to know for certain if eating disorders actually fall into the same category as addictions.

Are Eating Disorders Addictions?

According to Indiana University, the behaviors associated with compulsive or binge eating, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa are “considered to be addictive behaviors with no clear etiology.” This is because they all have negative consequences, but the individual involved cannot control their actions, even when they want to stop. Instead, they will need help in order to make a change in their life.

As stated by the American Journal of Addiction, “Although there are important differences between overeating and other addictive behaviors, an addiction model of overeating may effectively inform prevention and treatment of obesity. The symptoms associated with bulimia and anorexia are highly similar to those associated with addictions as well. So are eating disorders a type of addiction?

Although eating disorders do share many traits with addictions, the medical community often separates them into their own category. But, if it helps you to view your condition through the lens of addiction and if you are better able to see how this behavior can be treated and how you can begin to recover in this way, then it is perfectly acceptable for you to do so.

Getting Help and Making a Change

The medical community is still debating whether or not all eating disorders should be considered to fall into the same category as addictions, but this should not stop you from using your knowledge of both subjects to make a positive change.