Last updated: 05/1/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Nowadays, references made to addiction tend to involve alcohol or drugs, with food taking a distant fourth or fifth behind gambling and internet addictions. Interestingly enough, food addiction poses a considerable health threat in spite of its behind-the-scenes existence.
According to National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, an estimated 68.8 percent of Americans meet the criteria for obesity or being overweight, which is a good indication of high rates of eating disorders. Like any other form of compulsive behavior, food addiction doesn’t develop overnight, but rather certain key signs tend to develop along the way.
If you or someone you know suspects a food addiction lifestyle may be taking shape in your daily life, knowing what signs to watch for can help you take needed steps to get the help you need.
The Addiction Lifestyle
Compulsive behavior in any form breeds its own lifestyle, driving a person to organize his or her daily activities around engaging in the addictive behavior. The same goes for food addiction.
Within a food addiction-based lifestyle, food takes on top priority over everything else. It’s this mindset and its resulting choices that drive compulsive eating behaviors. These same choices and behaviors ultimately “feed” the addiction impulse over time.
3 Lifestyle Patterns of Food Addiction
1. Using Food as an Escape
Unless a person has a set of healthy coping skills to work with, he or she will likely engage in dysfunctional or even destructive-type behaviors during periods of stress, chaos and conflict. The phrase “stress eating” accurately depicts a habit where individuals use food as a means for coping or escaping from stressful situations.
Likewise, relationship conflicts and disappointments all become a reason to indulge in compulsive eating behaviors.
2. Using food as a Comfort
It’s not uncommon for people struggling with food addiction to also be dealing with depression or some other type of emotion-based disorder. Under these conditions, compulsive eating can provide needed comfort in the absence of healthy coping behaviors, according to Current Psychiatry Reports.
In effect, popular phrases like “stress eating” and “comfort food,” both depict food as an emotion-based outlet.
3. Prioritizing Food Over All Else
People struggling with food addiction behave in much the same way as people addicted to drugs and alcohol. In this respect, getting and eating food takes on top priority in a person’s daily life regardless of any negative consequences that may result from these behaviors.
Broken relationships, problems on the job and even financial problems can all develop out of compulsive eating behaviors, not to mention the tremendous toll excess eating takes on a person’s physical health.
Addiction in any form holds the power to change a person’s life in destructive ways. Just because food is the problem issue (as opposed to alcohol or drugs) doesn’t make food addiction any less critical in terms of person’s quality of life or overall well-being.
When left untreated, a food addiction can breed other forms of addiction as it’s the behavior or the compulsion that drives addiction-based conditions. Likewise, food addicts face a very real risk of developing mental health problems as well.