Most people associate addiction with drugs and alcohol. However, the nature of the brain is such that almost any activity or substance can become addictive: shopping, sex, and exercise are all candidates for addiction disorders.
In recent decades, the prevalence of food addiction has become more widely understood due to research and education. Some people may not recognize an eating disorder, or understand exactly what it means to suffer from it. Here, then, is a list of four things you should know about food addiction.
1. It Works Just Like Any Other Addiction
A food addiction affects the brain just as an addiction to any other substance does. Addiction is now recognized by science as a chronic brain disorder. There is a part of the brain that acts as the ‘pleasure center’ and reward system of the human body. When stimulated, this area produces the neurotransmitter dopamine, which essentially makes you feel good. When the pleasure center is activated by a particular activity, dopamine floods the brain. Drugs, alcohol, and pleasurable experiences can produce a particularly strong release of dopamine.
Addiction occurs when a person compulsively repeats an activity in order to try and capture the good feelings caused by dopamine. Essentially, the reward system is hijacked by a particular substance or activity, and an addicted person needs to continue that behavior in order to feel good. This compulsive behavior will continue even in the face of negative consequences.
2. It Does Not Necessarily Result in Obesity
Many people associate food addiction with simply eating too much and becoming overweight or obese. This is a common misconception; eating disorders can manifest as eating too little (anorexia), eating and then purging food (bulimia), or having an unhealthy relationship with particular foods.
In addition, over-eating may not result in increased weight gain for everybody. Genetics play a role in how different people process calories, as do activities such as exercise. It is possible to suffer from a food addiction or eating disorder and remain thin.
3. It Is Often A Co-Occurring Disorder
Eating disorders and food addiction are often co-occurring with mental illness, just like substance abuse disorder. As with other mental health issues, eating disorders are caused by a multitude of factors, including:
- Social background
It is vital that co-occurring disorders are recognized and addressed during treatment, ensuring a balanced recovery. Approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and other methods can help identify and manage triggers that contribute to these co-occurring disorders.
4. Broad Signs Can Point to Eating Disorder
There is no “case in point” for eating disorders, and they can be difficult to spot. Often those suffering become adept at hiding their condition. However, there are certain clues that can indicate an eating disorder if you know the signs for which to look:
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Obsession with weight and diet
- Frequent trips to the bathroom after eating
- Anxiety about weight
- Excuses to avoid mealtimes or denial of hunger
- Excessive exercise
- Consuming large amounts of food rapidly and frequently
- Evidence of purging
If you or any of your loved ones are suffering from food addiction in Oregon and are ready to seek treatment, Recovery Village Ridgefield is here to help. We work with you to develop personalized treatment plans that suit your needs, and our skilled professionals are ready to assist you in pursuing recovery. To learn more, contact us today and start the journey to a healthier you.