How Food Addiction and Other Addictions Can Be Related

Many people have heard about illicit substance or behavioral addictions and how they can negatively affect the lives of the user and those around them. However, did you know that food addiction can have similar adverse effects? In fact, food addiction and other addictions can influence the brain and body in comparable ways.

The Causes of Addiction

Scientists continue to conduct studies to figure out the exact cause of addiction. However, they do know that there are certain factors that can put people at risk of developing an addiction to food, illicit substances or anything else. Many people with addictions have suffered depression or trauma. They may also have a family history of addiction.

There are some differences in causes and risk factors between the various forms of addiction. For example, scientists believe people with food addictions may be experiencing a miscommunication from the hormones that regulate appetite.

The Effect of Addiction on the Brain

Several studies have shown that addicts of all types (food, illicit substances, etc.) have difficulty feeling good due to fewer D2 (dopamine) receptors in their brains. When people act on their addiction, it releases an extra push of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls the pleasure center of the brain. People with food addictions are compelled to keep eating despite negative consequences, just as drug addicts keep taking drugs in order to compensate for their low amount of D2 receptors.

The Presence of Intense Cravings

Chocolate cupcakes food cravings

Image Credit: Kaboompics

A Yale University study has found that, among people with addictive eating habits, just the sight of a milkshake could activate the same pleasure and reward centers of the brain that cocaine does. Another study, conducted by Rockefeller University, revealed that just thinking of an eating binge can cause food addicts to feel physical cravings similar to the ones drug addicts experience.

Methods of Treatment

Healthy salad treating food addiction

Image Credit: Brian Chan

As with behavioral and substance addiction, food addiction is a complex problem that is difficult to quit. In order for treatment to be effective, it must focus on reducing that negative behavior and include therapy for the issues that may have caused the addiction in the first place.

Common types of addiction therapy include outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment and/or medication. Many food addicts find that a nutritionist is also helpful during treatment. Unlike drug addicts, who can abstain from drugs after recovery, food addicts must continue to eat in order to survive. A nutritionist can create a food plan that will provide essential nutrients while preventing relapse.

Food addiction, like all addictions, is a complicated matter, and it takes time to resolve. However, with proper treatment, people with food addictions can recover and lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

Feature Image: Brian Chan