Often referred to as binge eating, compulsive overeating is an addiction to food that helps meet any of the following needs:
- To hide from emotions
- To fill an emotional void
- To cope with daily stresses and problems
While compulsive overeating may relieve some problems, it is often short lived and never deals with the core issues.
Effects of Compulsive Overeating
Many compulsive eaters recognize that eating is not the issue, but rather that they eat due to some underlying problem, such as low self-esteem, fear, loneliness and the inability to handle stress. When people ignore these needs and use food as a temporary fix, the effects may include the following problems:
- Emotional effects can include the fear of being unable to control eating, believing that life will be better if you can lose weight, experiencing mood swings and depression and blaming overeating for failures in your personal and professional life
- Physical effects may include being frequently out of breath after light activities, excessive sweating, high blood pressure and/or cholesterol, leg and joint pain causing decreased mobility, fatigue, insomnia and reduced sexual desire
- Behavioral effects include chronic dieting, hiding food in strange places, vague or secretive eating patterns and self-defeating statements after food consumption
Overeating is an addiction that damages every part of a person’s life.
How Addiction and Compulsive Overeating Work
Compulsive overeating and addiction share fear and compulsion in the following ways:
- Fear is the ability to recognize danger, which leads to the urge either to confront or flee from it. However, fear is frequently related to the escape and avoidance if someone believes a threat is uncontrollable or unavoidable. Therefore, people may use drugs or eat to numb their pain from something they fear they cannot prevent.
- Compulsive behavior is a psychological condition where people feel they must do some certain act, like eat. This can lead to irregular habits that feel uncontrollable.
With compulsive overeating and addiction share commonalities, many people use alcohol or drugs to temporarily relieve their state of distress, which is what food addicts wish to do.
Treatment for Compulsive Overeating and Addiction
Many people have co-occurring conditions, i.e. a mental health issue and a substance abuse problem, but when you look at the common components of overeating and addiction, these two separate issues need to be treated simultaneously. The most effective treatment for this issue is Dual Diagnosis treatment. Working in a coordinated manner, this treatment delves into the underlying causes of the conditions and heals them at the same time.
Help for Compulsive Overeating and Addiction
The sooner you get help for compulsive overeating and addiction, the greater the likelihood that you can recover. However, we understand that many people do not want to talk about their problems. To be assured of confidentiality and to get your questions answered, call our toll-free helpline any time as we are available 24 hours a day. We can help you find the right treatment program for overeating and addiction, and we can provide information about insurance and resources. We are here to help, so give us a try and call today.
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David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.