Understanding Food Addiction
Research has found that certain foods trigger the brain in the same way that addictive drugs like alcohol and heroin do by activating dopamine receptors. Addictive foods are considered highly palatable and tend to be high in the following ingredients:
When consumed, these foods activate the feel-good chemical in the brain—dopamine. Dopamine signals the brain that something pleasurable or rewarding is happening. This can lead to continued cravings of certain foods—even after physical hunger has passed.
In the same way that a drug addict will need more and more of a substance to get the same “high,” someone with a food addiction will feel driven to consume greater quantities of the stimulating foods in order to achieve the same pleasurable feelings.
Symptoms of Food Addiction
The symptoms of food addiction are diverse, but primary indications that you may have a food addiction include:
- Eating certain foods even when you’re full
- Consuming a greater quantity of a food than you were originally intending
- Feeling anxiety over not being able to have a certain food or the thought of cutting back on the amount of a food you consume
- Making special trips or interrupting plans to get a certain food
Along with those symptoms, if you find yourself obsessing over what you will eat and when, or feeling consistently anxious, upset, guilty or depressed about the foods you eat, you may have a food addiction.
Obesity and Food Addiction
While scientists haven’t found the exact correlation between food addiction and obesity, they believe a connection exists. Research suggests that anyone with any body type may develop a food addiction. However, for some people, the consequences are more pronounced, leading to significant weight gain and unhealthy interference with daily life.
When someone becomes obese and seeks treatment, if a food addiction is also part of the underlying medical issue, that individual may require a different type of care than an obese person who does not have a food addiction.
Food Addiction Treatment
For those who have food addiction, a deeper understanding of the psychological and chemical aspects of food addiction may help with recovery. New organizations have also developed, like Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, in response to the growing number of people seeking additional, long-term support.
Since food addiction may be accompanied by other health issues, if you feel like you may have a food addiction, seeking help from a wellness professional is best.