Food Addiction – it’s REAL!

Going through a time of quarantine and isolation, such as this can be difficult to handle for anyone, and this is particularly the case for those who may have unhealthy relationships with food. Being trapped inside can make us eat out of boredom or stress, and at a time where it feels like a chore to figure out what to do for the day, baking something sweet and killing a few hours to do so can be especially comforting.

Food addiction, like substance use, can be exacerbated by finding comfort or relaxation in eating during stressful or traumatic times. Like drug use, food addiction can negatively impact health – weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, among many other conditions. People who are recovering from drug addiction often use food to use as a substitute for their addiction.

Food addiction is characterized by “eating when already full to the point of pain or even feeling ill, eating in secret or isolation, and avoiding social events to eat.” Food addictions can lead to difficulty in functioning that affects the way a person works or learns. This can include a decrease in energy resulting in fatigue, and even symptoms of depression such as restlessness, irritability, and thoughts of suicide.

As briefly mentioned, there can be physical, psychological, and social effects of food addiction. The physical effects range from malnutrition and heart disease, to things like chronic pain and fatigue. Research has also found that it can lead to issues such as arthritis and osteoporosis. These physical changes are due to the impact that excess food has on the body. Food addiction is also a condition that manifests itself psychologically.

A person can feel like they don’t need help, that their problems aren’t “real”, or that people will make fun of them if they do ask for help. The psychological effects can include low self-esteem, panic attacks, increased irritability, emotional detachment, numbness, as well as the symptoms of depression mentioned above. Finally, there are social effects on a person’s life. There can be decreased attention in school or work, isolation from friends and family, less enjoyment in activities they once loved, and avoidance of social events.

Some may think that food addiction is not real or not as bad as other addictions. This is not true. There are many ways in which food addiction can negatively impact someone’s life. If you feel like you are going through this, please reach out for help from a loved one or the resources available otherwise.