Is binge eating (disorder) a food addiction?

66% of American adults are overweight or obese, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Binging is an extreme behavior related to food…but is it an addiction? We explore this taboo subject, and take a look at diagnostic limitations of binging here.

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What is Binge-Eating Disorder?

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, about 1-5% of American binge eat. Binge-eating disorder is characterized by recurrent overeating episodes and loss of control over eating that is NOT followed by purging and can result in weight gain or obesity. People who binge eat also experience feelings of extreme distress or concern about body weight or shape, much like an alcoholic experiences regret after a night of binge drinking.

What are the signs of binge eating?

  • Eating in secret
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Feeling out of control over eating behavior.
  • Feeling ashamed or disgusted by over eating behavior.
  • Frequent, recurrent episodes (a pattern) of eating large quantities of food in a short period of time

How can binge eating be treated?

People who binge eat often experience co-existing psychological stresses, including anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. This is why doctors aim to treat underlying issues first. Cognitive behavioral therapy is frequently suggested to treat the underlying psychological issues associated with binge-eating, in an individual or group environment. Or medications such as antidepressants or appetite suppressants can be prescribed.

Is binge eating a food addiction?

In our opinion, YES! In fact, binging on food and binging on alcohol seem to be closely associated. In order to understand this, I suggest that you read Dr. William D. Silkworth’s “The Doctor’s Opinion” in the Big Book of A.A. … to see the similarity of the nature of cravings (for any substance) and the solution to such problems:

“On the other hand-and strange as this may seem to those who do not understand-once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for [substance], the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules.”

What troubles me is that binge-eating does not yet exist as a specific disorder within the DSM – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but is a serious problem for many people. I suggest that Binge eating is a disorder of eating more than you need NOT to satisfy hunger, but to meet and emotional, psychological and spiritual need for “fullness”. If you suspect that you or a loved one is in the grips of a food addiction, HELP IS AVAILABLE. Check in with a sensitive doctor, psychologist, or support group (like OA) … and get started towards recovery.

No matter the addiction, the recovery process is the same.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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