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Food Addiction – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.

Is food addictions a real thing? oh yes, it is. Food is important for the survival of every living thing. It is also a vital aspect of health and wellness, enjoyment, and of course, a must-have in every celebration.

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Food is more than just a thing that provides sustenance, it is also a source of gratification as it offers different nice aromas, textures, and taste.

However, even though everyone likes a nice taste in their mouth, there are some people who get addicted to food just as a drug addict is towards the substance they abuse.

For men and women who suffer from food addiction, foods that are highly palatable (especially those that are rich in sugar, salt, and fat) often triggers chemical reactions in their brains which will induce a feeling of satisfaction and pleasure.

This kind of chemical reaction has been described as comparable to how an addict reacts or responds to the substance they are addicted to because these foods activate the same brain reward centres that other substances activate.

People who are addicted to food usually become dependent on the feeling of enjoyment that they derive from eating specific foods, and that feeling pushes them to consume even more of those foods.

Behaviours like this create a vicious cycle as the addict finds himself constantly searching for foods that provide him with that pleasurable feeling. Addicts often find themselves overindulging or eating more than is required for normal nutrition or satiety.

Such addiction can result in several emotional, physical, and some social consequences, like obesity, heart disease, digestive issues, isolation, depression, and low-self esteem.

A food addict will most likely ignore the consequences of overeating and continue to engage in this destructive behaviour just for the pleasurable feeling that comes with it.

Due to the ferocious cycle created by the addiction to food, and the many detrimental consequences that are connected to this behaviour, it is important that a person seeks professional help.

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If you know anyone who has been dealing with a food addiction, or if you have found yourself dealing with it, there is hope that you can live a life free of this addiction.

There are a few ways you can find the much-needed help to get you back to normal, and one of those ways is by talking to someone about it.

Causes of Food Addiction

Food addiction is most likely the buildup of several factors that play out in the overall cause of this problem.

There’s a possibility that a man or woman can develop food addiction due to psychological, biological, or even social problems.

Some of the biological causes that may have an influence on the progress of food addiction include the side effect of certain medications, hormonal imbalance, some abnormalities in various brain structures, and even having family members who struggle with the same addiction.

Psychological factors may also be responsible for the development of food addiction. Some of the factors included in this category are sexual or emotional abuse, being a survivor or victim of a traumatic event, chronic low self-esteem, finding it difficult to healthily cope with negative situations, or dealing with loss or grief.

Psychological factors like the above can push an individual to use food as a coping mechanism especially if they are trying really hard not to get addicted to more harmful substances like hard drugs and alcohol.

Either way, too much of a good thing is a bad thing and that explains why they experience symptoms that are unhealthy.

There are also social implications that may influence a person to turn food into a coping mechanism.

Such social problems include pressure from society or peers, disturbance from family, child abuse, social isolation, stressful life events, and a lack of social support.

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Food addiction may also be associated with other disorders that co-occur, like substance abuse or eating disorders.

Food addiction is one mental health issue that may cause serious complications if you leave it untreated. This is why it is important that professional help is sort for the effective treatment of the disorder.

Signs and Symptoms

There are numerous signs and symptoms that can help you identify food addiction. The following are likely symptoms of food addiction that you can watch out for:

  1. Gorging in more snacks or food than a person can physically tolerate
  2. Eating a particular food or different foods to the point of feeling sick
  3. Going out of your way and doing unimaginable things to obtain some specific foods
  4. Continuing to eat certain foods even if you are no longer hungry
  5. Eating food in secret, isolation to prevent external interference
  6. Avoiding relationships, social interactions, or functions to spend time eating some specific foods.
  7. Difficulty functioning in a career or job as a result of decreased efficiency
  8. Spending some significant amount of money purchasing certain foods just for bingeing purposes
  9. Chronic fatigue and decreased energy
  10. Difficulty with concentration
  11. Sleep disorders, like insomnia or even oversleeping
  12. Irritability
  13. Restlessness
  14. Headaches
  15. Suicidal ideations
  16. Digestive disorders

If you or any of your loved one has recently experienced or is currently experiencing any of the above symptoms due to food addiction, immediately begin to seek out professional help to help you work through these important issues.

Food Addiction Effects

If you or someone you know had been struggling with a condition like food addiction, there is a chance that you may understand the implications that such an addiction can have on the various aspects of your daily life.

If food addiction is left untreated or ignored, it can begin to consume your life rapidly, thereby creating chronic and damaging symptoms.

With an understanding of how food addiction may negatively affect the different aspects of your daily life may be all the encouragement, you need to get the help you deserve and need. Read the following to find out some of the different effects of food addiction:

Physical Effects

An addiction to food can result in quite a number of negative physical consequences in a person’s body as an excess of a specific, or different foods is consumed. Below are some of the physical effects that you may be experiencing:

Psychological Effects

We have hinted earlier that food addiction can be somewhat debilitating to a person’s mental health, especially if such a person experiences a lack of help or inadequate support. Some of the psychological effects that you may experience include the following:

  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Panic attacks
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or in despair
  • Increased feelings of anxiety
  • Increased irritability, especially in a situation where access to the desired food is restricted
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Numbness or emotional detachment

Finally, it is unavoidable that food addiction can have an impact on a person’s relationship and social life. The social effects of an addiction to food may include:

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  • Decreased performance at school or work
  • Division within family units
  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Lack of enjoyment in taking part in hobbies or doing activities once enjoyed
  • Risk of jeopardizing career or finances
  • Avoidance of social functions or events

Food Addiction Treatment

If you or someone you love has found yourself slowly sinking into the vicious cycle of this mental health condition called food addiction, there is a chance that you are likely experiencing or have experienced a roller coaster of emotions, such as frustration, despair, and hopelessness.

Living every day with food addiction may most likely preventing you from living and enjoying your best life. However, the good news is that the possibility for healing always exists.

By summoning the courage to see appropriate help and care that you need, you can easily find the resources that are required to address your addiction in the most effective manner.

The upside of all of this is that there are some specialized food addiction treatment centres where you can find help to approach this mental health disorder in both a holistic and a comprehensive manner.

These food addiction treatment centres usually offer multi-speciality treatment that is focused on addressing medical issues, as well as nutritional concerns while also integrating the much-needed psychotherapy.

There is a saying that a problem shared is half solved, thus there is also a myriad of wonderful support groups that you can become a part of.

Some of the support groups you can take advantage of including Overeaters Anonymous, Food Addicts Anonymous, and Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous.

These groups offer a 12 step based program that can effectively address food addiction on an emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects, thus offering the much-needed support to people who are seeking to get healed from their food addiction.

Making an attempt to deal with your food addiction on your own can most possibly draw you further into isolation or fear.

Having help, guidance, and support from a centre where eating disorder or food addiction is treated, seeing a specialist, or joining a support group may be enough to provide you or that loved one with all the tools and the resources that you need to heal and recover from food addiction.

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Have conquered food addiction? tell us all about it.

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