Teen Rehab Breaks Down Food Addiction in Plain English

Lately, Vanessa can’t seem to stop snacking on junk food. She’s been busy with volleyball championships coming up and has multiple assignments due, so she’s constantly on the run and unable to eat a proper meal. Here and there she’ll grab a bag of chips, a can of soda or some fries from a fast food chain. When it comes to dinner time at home, she can’t eat a full plate because she’s been snacking all day. But soon after, she’ll sneak into her room with sugary treats in hand.

Derek has always been known as a “good eater.” He can always help someone finish their meal, will often go for seconds and tends to eat the most but also the fastest. It’s also not uncommon for him to complain about a stomachache soon after eating and feel guilty about how much he’s consumed. Yet every meal, he does it again.

These two fictional stories are about a real condition known as a food addiction. Foods that are high in salts, sugars and fats tend to affect our brain’s reward system and feelings of pleasure. These enjoyable feelings can lead to an addiction that is not unlike one to cocaine or heroin.


Image Kate Bolin

Some signs of a food addiction can include:

  • Overeating at meal times
  • Constant snacking then an inability to eat a full, proper meal
  • Eating in secret or hiding eating habits
  • Eating when experiencing strong emotions such as stress, sadness or elation
  • Feeling shame or guilt after overeating
  • Failed attempts to limit food binging
  • Eating even when full

What complicates matters, of course, is our dependence on food. While treatments for drug addiction typically involve a complete cutting off from a substance, we all need food to survive. As a result, a positive relationship to food needs to be established instead. This is certainly possible and those with a food addiction shouldn’t ignore these symptom and instead contact a nutritionist or mental health professional. The long term results of a food addiction can lead to poor physical health, low self esteem and obesity, so those living with this condition should seek support.

Featured image Arman Zhenikeyev / Shutterstock