Eating disorders are very similar to other addictions and compulsions. Anorexia, Bulemia, and Binge Eating Disorder (no purging) all require urgent and serious attention. Although obsession with food leads to different behaviors for the anorexic, bulemic, or binger, they have elements in common. Compulsive under-eating and compulsive over-eating cause distortions in thinking, mood swings (severe depression), stress, social withdrawal (loneliness) and endless dieting to no avail or endless restricting to the point of death. Food addiction is often characterized by:
- Eating compulsively when one isn’t hungry; constantly thinking about food
- Bingeing on large volumes of food and vomiting or using excessive laxatives/diuretics
- Severely restricting caloric intake, while having constant thoughts of food
- Eating to suppress depression and anxiety and/or eating to provide comfort
- Minimal eating in public and excess eating when alone
- Hiding food; eating rapidly and indiscriminately until full enough to feel sick
- Frequently snacking throughout the day, or not eating all day
- Obsessive or ritualistic behavior related to food, eating, exercise
- Distortion of body image; preoccupation with weight and appearance
Unlike other eating disorders, compulsive over-eaters do not follow bingeing with purging. Nonetheless, they often obsessively seek diet solutions which cause large fluctuations in weight. Over-eaters may use food as a means to fight sadness, guilt, and low self-esteem. This is not only physically damaging, but is also emotionally damaging, once the short term “high” passes. For a compulsive eater, food is the drug, and when you become dependent on food for dealing with emotions, it is easy to fall into a detrimental cycle where food is used for comfort but the outcome is far from comforting: depression, anxiety and self loathing.
If you, a friend, or a family member are struggling with an eating addiction or an eating disorder, please feel free to contact me to discuss an appropriate path to recovery.
To see the books I recommend on eating disorders and food addiction, please go here.