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Food addiction is a growing problem in the world, much more to an extent than one may think. It is not uncommon for people to use food as a form of stress relief or other means of comfort. The difference in food addiction over other addictions is that you cannot abstain from food. When an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or even gambling occurs the behaviors or substances can be avoided, but this is not true of food addiction.
Food addiction is based around the idea of compulsive overeating. This is not just overeating at a single meal or at special occasions, but continually for the majority of meals. Food addiction is not well studied as far as overeating is concerned. Although the other end of the spectrum of not eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia has been well documented. However, overeating can cause just as many health issues as not eating at all.
For those who are addicted to food some studies have shown that the brain reacts in the same way as someone using drugs like cocaine or heroin. This is especially true of foods that are high in fat, salt, and/or sugar. Eating these foods can trigger dopamine in the brain which creates a pleasant or calm feeling in the eater. This means that compulsive overeating is actually be behavioral in nature. Meaning the addiction develops as the people grow a tolerance to certain food types and eat more to achieve the same feeling. So much like an addict who has to use a higher amount of drugs to get high. The over eater needs more of a particular type of food to achieve the good feelings.
Those who are addicted to food are prone to health problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, and other weight related issues. Food addiction can also affect family members as those who are addicted to eating will try to hide food intake, be less likely to take part in activities, and struggle to stop their overeating even if they want to do so.
Just as with any addiction, food addiction is something that people will require help to overcome. Since abstinence from food is not an option, behavioral treatments may be the best option for those addicted to food. Those who are compulsive eaters will have to change their view, thoughts, and behaviors around food. It can be tough to learn portion control, food choices, and using food as energy, not as a way to cope with problems. Compulsive eaters may also benefit from talk therapy to deal with the issues that lead to overeating. As many will have an underlying issue that led to food as comfort.
If you are unsure if you have an unhealthy addiction to food consider asking yourself whether you eat to reduce negative feelings. Whether eating causes depression, anxiety, or guilt. And whether how certain foods used to make you feel have changed. Once you answer these questions honestly you can probably determine whether an addiction is present and if so, seek help. This type of addiction is truly about a lifestyle and thinking change that is starkly different from abstinence from an addictive substance. However, beating a food addiction is possible if you are open and honest with yourself and others. What happens next is up to you, what will you do?
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