Mark Hillman, Ph.D., (Psy) LMHC
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.
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 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 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.