Military Personnel and Compulsive Overeating

Military Personnel and Compulsive OvereatingCompulsive overeating is similar to drug addiction, in that brain chemistry directly correlates to these behaviors. You may understand that addiction is a disease that alters brain chemistry to cause compulsive behaviors, but the same is true with compulsive overeating. When the brain’s neurotransmitters—such as endorphins and dopamine—are stimulated, people seek to maintain that pleasurable experience, and this includes compulsively engaging in behaviors if they are addicted. Compulsive means that people wish to act differently, but feel compelled to respond to their brain chemistry to maintain pleasure.

Items that alter the brain chemistry for addicts are drugs or alcohol, but for compulsive overeaters those items are sugary, fatty foods that provide pleasure and relaxation. Addicts suffer from cravings and triggers, and so do compulsive overeaters: instead of craving a drug, a compulsive overeater may crave a food or feel tempted by her favorite restaurants.

Symptoms of Compulsive Overeating

According to the Mayo Clinic, compulsive overeating presents any of the following symptoms:

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food
  • Eating even when you’re full or not hungry
  • Eating rapidly during binge episodes
  • Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
  • Frequently eating alone
  • Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
  • Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
  • Experiencing depression and anxiety as a result of eating or when not eating
  • Feeling isolated and having difficulty talking about your feelings
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss
  • Losing and gaining weight repeatedly, also called yo-yo dieting

Often after compulsively overeating, people may attempt food management strategies, but many people relapse if they lack the tools to handle cravings and triggers.

Effects of Untreated Compulsive Overeating

People who avoid treatment for compulsive overeating may suffer any of the following complications to their addictions:

  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Insomnia
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Gallbladder disease and other digestive problems
  • Heart disease
  • Some types of cancer
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Menstrual problems

People in the military may jeopardize their careers if they avoid the treatment that will manage this issue.

Treatment for Compulsive Overeating

As is true with addiction, recovery from compulsive overeating is a lifelong journey. Therefore, many treatment options for compulsive overeating are similar to addiction treatment. One of the most common treatment strategies for compulsive overeating is psychotherapy. For instance, Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy teach patients about the connections between their thoughts and behaviors, but it also teaches behavioral skills to help patients manage stress and emotions.

Help Finding Treatment for Compulsive Overeating

Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline any time. Our counselors offer valuable and confidential information to help soldiers end addiction and eating disorder concerns.