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While eating addiction and disorders may not be a new condition in the U.S., scientists have recently discovered a measurable way to identify them. In 2009, the Yale Food Addiction Scale was developed as a self-report tool to help people understand whether they were addicted to some types of food. Since that time, studies have been conducted to determine just how prevalent this problem might be among both men and women. One study performed in Newfoundland, Canada, found that 5.4 percent of individuals that participated in the survey could be diagnosed with an eating addiction. That number increased among obese individuals, as 7.7 percent had a food addiction.

Causes and Risk Factors

Food is an essential substance of life, and not everyone develops an addiction to this vital process. People that are obese tend to have a higher prevalence of this disorder. Other risk factors might include:

  • Gender – Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with food addiction as men.
  • Childhood Obesity – Children that are overweight tend to have a higher incidence of eating disorders in adulthood.
  • Other Eating Disorders – Researchers have discovered that people diagnosed with a binge eating disorder are more likely to be diagnosed with an eating addiction.

Symptoms of an Eating Addiction

Because food is a necessary part of our survival, it can be difficult to know when eating crosses the line into addiction. Some of the symptoms might include:

  • Eating more food and for longer stretches of time than you planned
  • Sacrificing personal, professional or social obligations to eat
  • Spending more time thinking about food, eating it and recovering from the effects of overeating
  • Inability to stop eating despite consequences like weight gain and health issues
  • Persistent desire to eat, even if you have tried to quit the habit
  • Depression and shame over your eating and the resulting weight gain
  • Eating in private so others don’t see how much you eat
  • Eating when you are upset or depressed to feel better

When eating becomes an addiction, it cannot be addressed in the same manner as other substance abuse disorders. You cannot practice abstinence when it comes to food. However, there are ways to alter how you think about food to create a healthier approach to eating.

Long-Term Repercussions

Like other types of dependencies, food addiction can take its toll on the body in a variety of ways. Some of the long-term effects of substantial weight gain due to overeating include:

  • Heart and cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Problems with the digestive system
  • Chronic pain and fatigue
  • Arthritis
  • Damage to the liver and kidneys
  • Sleep disorders
  • Reduced sex drive

These physical issues can also be accompanied by psychological effects such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and increased irritability. In extreme cases, an eating addiction left unchecked can lead to suicidal thoughts and ideations. Treatment is imperative to avoid these long-term effects, and the negative impact eating addiction can have on the quality of your life.

Eating Addiction and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse frequently accompanies an eating addiction, a condition known as a co-occurring disorder. As many as half of individuals with an eating addiction also struggle with drug or alcohol abuse, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Common substances of abuse include alcohol, laxatives, amphetamines, diuretics, cocaine and heroin. When seeking treatment for this co-occurring disorder, it is essential to find a center that has the experience and expertise necessary to treat both addictions at the same time to ensure the best odds of success.

Treatment Options

Addressing an eating addiction and substance abuse disorder at the same time can be complicated, but it is far from impossible. At Center for Professional Recovery, we understand how these issues can affect those in high-profile industries like medicine, aviation and law and have designed programs specifically to address the needs of this demographic. With the highest level of care and extensive experience in substance abuse and other addictions, we are equipped to help you explore the underlying factors that led to the dependency so that they can be managed in a healthy and sober manner. To get the help you need today, contact the Center for Professional Recovery at 866.298.0056.

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