At the centre of Food addiction or any addiction is a behaviour that an individual feels powerless in controlling. A behaviour which can interfere with all aspects of an individual’s wellbeing, and eventually steals the ability to live a functional and happy life without engaging in the addictive behaviour.
One of the defining factors of addiction is finding yourself at a loss with control with limiting intake or engagement. You can become genuinely addicted to any activity, object, substance, or behaviour that provides pleasure or reinforcement, and that includes food. Food addiction is an extremely common, yet commonly misunderstood struggle which many individuals find themselves facing at some point in their lives. Eating heavy amounts of foods such as sugar, fats and carbohydrates in small sittings sends signals to the brain to produce excitatory neuro chemicals, which creates a rewarding type of high that some individuals continue to seek out, in spite of the negative consequences and detriment it brings to their overall state of wellbeing.
Food is one of the worlds most overused and abused substances. Whilst there is not yet an official scientific consensus that food addiction holds the same detriments as drug and alcohol abuse, the immediate and potent effects of food addiction can act like a drug and hold similar addictive properties as defined by the DSM.
When the brain is regularly flooded with excitatory neurochemicals, it can become less sensitive to the trigger of them through increased tolerance and this leads to a decrease in capability of finding happiness and pleasure in other activities, with a drive to continue and increase the addictive behaviour to produce the same high. That is why that when you find yourself stuck in the engagement of addictive behaviours, whether that be drugs and alcohol or food addiction, you may start to notice symptoms such as lack of energy, depression, and struggling with memory or concentration.
Physical dependence as with drugs and alcohol is also possible with food. When you try to suddenly stop binge eating, you may find yourself faced with symptoms of irritability, restlessness, and stuck with an increase of cravings due to a change in your physiology because your brain is no longer signalling for the creation of dopamine, serotonin and other neurotransmitters at ease.
If you or someone you know is struggling with this common addiction, it’s important to know that you aren’t alone and that you can ask for help. Through the right support and application of the right therapeutic framework, it is possible to break free from the cycle of food addiction and find ways to create a happy, healthy, and productive life.
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