Compulsive Overeating and Addiction

Compulsive Overeating and AddictionCompulsive overeating involves obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors involving food, often through binge eating. Anyone may develop compulsive overeating, and it may often lead to or coincide with obesity.  Compulsive overeating may be described as a behavioral or process addiction. Chemical changes in the brain may be similar to those that occur due to drug addiction.

Causes of Compulsive Overeating

Compulsive overeating may often stem from poor self-esteem and body image issues. Growing up in a home with parents who are critical of their own or their children’s appearance may influence their children’s self-image. Addiction and compulsive eating habits may also be hereditary. Having a low income may also increase the chance of developing compulsive overeating, as individuals may not be able to afford quality food, and stress over finances may lead to overeating as a way to cope. Mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) may contribute to compulsive overeating, especially in individuals with other risk factors.

Some individuals experience a rush of endorphins and dopamine when they consume high-fat or sugary food. Eating these unhealthy foods may result in euphoria, encouraging an individual to consume large amounts in what is known as a binge. These brain chemicals alter the reward pathway and encourage an individual to repeat the binge eating behavior. While euphoria may occur due to compulsive overeating, after the binge, individuals may experience depression or mood swings due to a drop in dopamine or guilt over compulsive eating.

How Addiction and Compulsive Overeating Are Similar

Compulsive overeating shares many similarities with drug and alcohol addiction. Addiction and compulsive overeating are both characterized by an inability to control the unhealthy behavior. Individuals experience physical and mental cravings for sugary and fattening foods, and the euphoric rush caused by binge eating may be similar to some addicting drugs. Both have similar causes, and may develop as a way to cope with anxiety or stress. Mental health issues may lead to unhealthy eating habits or drug use. When dopamine floods the brain and reward pathway, parts of the brain that control behavior may be affected, leading to compulsive drug use or eating.

Addiction treatment may benefit individuals with compulsive eating habits. Counseling may help uncover underlying causes and mental health issues, and behavioral therapy can help individuals learn healthy eating habits.

Get Help for Addiction and Compulsive Overeating

If you are struggling with compulsive eating habits or drug abuse, call our helpline to learn about treatment options. Our counselors can answer your questions about addiction and help you find the right treatment for your needs. Call now, our helpline is toll-free and available 24 hours a day.