Food addiction is described as being preoccupied with food; where you're constantly thinking about food, worrying about food, and making plans around food... and obsessively eating food.
Just like addictive drugs such as heroin and cocaine, foods loaded in fat, sugar and salt have the same power to trigger those feel-good chemicals (like dopamine) in your brain. Once you begin to experience these "highs," the pleasure part of your brain quickly feels the need to eat more and more of the same food.
In fact, the signals in your brain associated with reward can override other signals such as feeling stuffed or feeling satisfaction from eating, which can cause you to eat even when you're not hungry.
What are some of the signs of food addiction?
Some signs you may have a food addiction include if you eat until you feel sick; you worry about not eating certain types of foods; if you are craving certain foods and they're not available, you will go out of your way to get them; you continue to eat even if you're full; you have problems functioning at your job or school because you're thinking about food or eating; you spend your days consuming food; or you experience sensations such as agitation, physical pains, and anxiety.
What are the current treatment options for food addiction and how do these options differ from treatments for other addictions?
Treatments for food addicts can be tricky. For example, if you're a drug addict or an alcoholic, ultimately the goal is to refrain from drinking or doing drugs. Unfortunately, if you're addicted to food, you still need to eat in order to survive.
Depending on the state you're in -- meaning how long this addiction has been going on -- the treatment options vary. Unfortunately, there are no treatment centers specifically devoted to people who are addicted to food. However, if you feel like you want to get your addiction under control, you may benefit from speaking to a specialist.
What are the withdrawal symptoms?
Just like any other addiction, there are several withdrawal symptoms. You may experience the shakes or stomach problems such as diarrhea, or feel depressed, fatigued, irritable, and just unwell overall. These symptoms can last for a few days, as your body is trying to function without the food you've been addicted to.
What else do you need to know about food addiction?
Addiction specialist, Vera Tarman, MD, MSc, FCFP, shares what food addiction is, the signs of food addiction, and the treatment options available.