Mark Hillman, Ph.D., (PSY) LMHC My Therapist is Making Me Nuts!Written by Mark Hillman

Take Me Away
From Troubled Times


Food Addiction

For most people, eating is a pleasurable experience. It's a biological necessity that most cultures have elevated to a high social status. But for some, eating is a compulsion. Men and women of all ages force themselves to eat too much or too little, and suffer tremendous psychological pain when they do. Eating, body weight and image become an obsession that damages relationships and has serious medical consequences.

Food addiction is a disorder characterized by preoccupation with food, the availability of food and the anticipation of pleasure from the ingestion of food.

Food addiction involves the repetitive consumption of food against the individuals better judgment resulting in loss of control and preoccupation or the restriction of food and preoccupation with body weight and image.

The Three Types of Food Addiction


Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by intense fear of gaining weight. Anorexia behavior includes excessive weighing, excessive measuring of body parts, and persistently using a mirror to check body size. Self-esteem is dependent upon body shape and weight. Weight loss is viewed as an impressive achievement and an example of extraordinary self discipline. Physical implications of anorexia may include disruption of the menstrual cycle, signs of starvation, thinning of hair or hair loss, bloated feeling, yellowish palms/soles of feet, dry, pasty skin.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is described as binge eating and compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain. Individuals become ashamed of their eating behavior and attempt to conceal symptoms through rapid consumption of food. They will eat until painfully full and stop if intruded upon. 80-90% of bulimics will induce vomiting. Other behaviors include, misuse of laxatives, fasting and excessive exercise. Physical implications include, loss of dental enamel, increase of cavities, swollen saliva glands, calluses, scars on hands, irregular menstrual cycle, dependency on laxatives for bowel movements, fluid and electrolyte disturbance.

Compulsive Overeaters

Compulsive Overeaters use food inappropriately and eventually become addicted to it and lose control over the amount of food they eat. Overeaters demonstrate uncontrollable binge eating without extreme weight control and see that behavior as normal. Overeaters present with moderate to severe obesity, with an average binge eater being 60% overweight. Bingeing episodes consist of carbohydrates and junk food with most binges done in scheduled secrecy.

Questions to ask yourself if you are concerned about food addiction

  1. Has anyone ever told you that you have a problem with food?
  2. Do you think food is a problem for you?
  3. Do you eat large amounts of high calorie food in a short period of time?
  4. Do you find yourself fearful of gaining weight?
  5. Do you eat when you are disappointed, tense or anxious?
  6. Can you stop eating without a struggle after one or two sweets?
  7. Do find yourself preoccupied with gaining weight?
  8. Has being overweight ever affected any part of your life?
  9. Do you weigh yourself once or twice (or more) a day?
  10. Do you eat more than you planned to eat?
  11. Have you hidden food so that you would have it just for yourself?
  12. Have you ever felt angry when someone ate food you saved for yourself?
  13. Do you worry that you can't control how much you eat?
  14. Have you felt frantic about your size, shape or weight?
  15. How many methods of weight loss have you tried in the past? (i.e., self induced vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, fasting, amphetamines, weight loss programs, etc.)
  16. Have you ever felt so ashamed of the amount you eat that you hide your eating?
  17. Have you been so upset about the way you eat that you wished you would die?
  18. Do you overeat more than twice a week?
  19. Do you invent plans in order to be alone to eat?
  20. Do you seek out companions who eat the way you do?
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