Not all eating disorders are the same. While some people who suffer from an eating disorder deprive themselves of food, others cannot stop bingeing and eating. Many people have a problem with occasionally overeating, but some people have an addiction to eating, which causes major health concerns and mental health issues.

A food addiction, or the inability to stop eating certain foods, is a mental health disorder. Much like an addiction to drugs, a person with a true food addiction cannot keep themselves from eating certain foods, usually foods rich in sugar, fat, or salt. These kinds of foods trigger dopamine to be released in the brain, which is the same way some drugs affect the brain, and it makes the person continue to eat, despite cues like feeling full or satisfied.

Side Effects of Food Addiction

The most common result of food addiction is obesity and all the health issues that go along with being overweight. High blood pressure, heart problems, and diabetes are just a few of the health problems associated with a food addiction. Individuals with an addiction to eating may also have underlying mental health issues, and these often get worse as the disease progresses. Depression, anxiety, self hatred, and guilt are all common among food addicts. Eating helps diminish these symptoms, at least for a time, but in the end the person feels worse after they’ve binged.

Someone with an addiction to food should talk to their doctor and may need therapy and counseling to recover. For those wondering if they have a problem with a food addiction, researchers at YaleUniversity’s RuddCenter for Food Science & Policy have developed a questionnaire to help identify food addictions. Tools like this help individuals evaluate their eating habits, and let them know if their food consumption is something to be concerned about.

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