Are You Addicted to Food?



Have you successfully recovered from a drug or alcohol addiction? Quit smoking? Or stopped practicing an addictive behavior?

If the way you eat feels similar to an addiction, you may be able to transfer some of the skills that you developed in overcoming your other issues.

Some Similarities Between Eating and Addictions:

  • Like alcohol and drugs, food is a biologically active substance that alters mood, changes brain chemistry, and feels rewarding to a sensitive brain.
  • Like behavioral addictions (gambling, pornography, video games, etc.), the process of eating and/or rituals surrounding eating can also feel rewarding and/or comforting.
  • Both are often performed in private and kept secret due to shame, embarrassment, or other negative feelings.
  • Attempting and failing to control the problem behavior with willpower is often unsuccessful, leading to a sense of personal helplessness, hopelessness, failure and/or disappointment.
  • A combination of learned behavior and biological sensitivity most likely set the stage for the behavior, which becomes less controllable as time progresses.
  • The behavior may have predictable triggers that once started, are nearly impossible to stop until the behavior has been completed.
  • The behavior may increase in frequency or severity during times of stress.
  • The behavior is used as a temporary escape, even though it ultimately causes more problems and makes things worse.
  • Underlying issues may fuel the behavior, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and others. Treatment for these underlying issues helps decrease the craving for the problem behaviors.
  • Family, friends and significant others find the behavior difficult to comprehend, and may express frustration, resentment, embarrassment, or retaliatory behaviors.

Although there are many similarities between problem eating and addictions, there are two significant differences:

  1. Abstinence from food is not compatible with life.
  2. It is nearly impossible to completely avoid unexpected encounters with food.

These two factors make recovery slightly different when the substance of abuse is food, because of course you have to learn to use food without abusing it. You can’t simply ban it from your life. But you have learned to manage your cravings for your other addiction issues, and you can do something similar with your problem food behaviors.

Let’s look at these possibilities in the next article. Meanwhile, if you are experiencing eating that feels uncontrollable or reminds you of your experience with addiction, please call Casa Palmera at and speak with our intake professionals who can provide you with guidance.