Last updated: 10/25/2018
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Evidence exists linking food to many of the same addicting characteristics as certain substances such as cocaine and other drugs. For some, food addiction is just as real as an addiction to prescription medications, cocaine, alcohol or other substances—expect that it’s even more difficult to cope with because there is no way to instill abstinence from food. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of food addiction early on can help you to determine whether professional help is needed and may prevent the onset of serious consequences including obesity, health problems, and low self-esteem.
Evidence of food addiction suggests that many of the same brain changes that occur with drug addiction also occur when an individual becomes addicted to food. People who are addicted to food show similar tolerance, withdrawal and loss of control as those who are addicted to substances such as alcohol or drugs.
Recognizing Food Addiction Symptoms
Ashley Gearhardt, a psychology major at Yale University, developed a 25 question diagnostic test that helps to determine whether an individual is showing symptoms of food addiction. When used in a study, this test proved that people suffer from food addiction regardless of body type; respondents in the study were of varying body types including obese, lean and average measures.
If you are wondering ‘Do I have a food addiction?”, you should think hard about whether or not you display the symptoms. Common symptoms of food addiction include:
- food cravings that are consistent and uncontrollable
- lack of control over food consumption (often consuming very large amounts of food in a single sitting)
- using extreme measures in order to avoid weight gain after a binge on food (this includes taking laxatives or exercising exhaustively in order to prevent weight gain)
- attempting various methods of weight loss, diet and exercise and failing due to uncontrollable cravings for food
- hiding eating habits from others
- feeling guilty or otherwise upset about eating habits
- avoiding social interaction in order to avoid embarrassment about eating habits
- hiding food from others
- stealing food
- binging and purging on food (eating massive quantities and then vomiting or otherwise expelling the food to prevent weight loss)
- being obsessed with food
- counting food bites or weighing food excessively
- feeling depressed about eating
- poor self-esteem or self-image
- feeling overweight and being unable to change eating habits
- eating foods that you know are making you sick or interfering with your health
- feeling anxious when you can’t eat certain foods
- feeling upset when certain foods are not available or when your eating habits are forced to change
Coping with Food Addiction
Food addiction can literally ruin your life, kill your self-esteem, destroy your health and leave you feeling defeated and alone. Coping with an addiction to food requires a firm understanding that food addiction is a disease just like drug or alcohol addiction—and that it can be treated. Counseling and therapy will be key to helping you overcome your addiction but it will be challenging. With the right help, with your commitment to your health and support from your friends, family and local support groups you can effectively overcome food addiction and beat the battle that exists between you and the foods that you eat.