Food addiction or Compulsive Overeating is an eating disorder that is perhaps less spoken about than others such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, but which can take hold of a person just as much and which can be as harmful to health and wellbeing as any other eating disorder.
What are the symptoms of compulsive overeating?
There is the element of loss of control that is characteristic of all disordered eating – typically a woman has an obsessive or compulsive relationship with food that makes it impossible for her to resist eating and overeating even when she isn’t hungry. Once started, she is unable to control the amount that she eats and will continue eating uncontrollably until she is uncomfortably full.
Unlike bulimics, those who are addicted to food do not engage in compensatory behavior afterwards, such as purging by vomiting or using laxatives and so on. But like bulimics, what follows an episode or binging or overeating is depression, dark moods, guilt, self loathing and so on.
Women who are addicted to food spend an inordinate amount of time thinking and fantasizing about food but are also typically preoccupied with weight gain, body image and so on.
The food is very often consumed in secret or when alone because a woman is typically aware that her eating patterns are disordered and she feels shame and embarrassment at her behavior as well as her inability to control it.
The addiction may not be obvious to others because a food addict may typically not eat very much when in the company of others or in public.
Women with food addictions are often overweight or obese, but this is not necessarily the case and many addicts could be or normal weight or may be only somewhat overweight.
Fluctuations in weight, trying out different diets unsuccessfully and similar behavior characterises food addiction. Addicts also tend to withdraw from social contact and activities because of their embarrassment about their weight as well as their disordered eating patterns.
Low self esteem and poor body image are very common characteristics of most people with disordered eating and those with a compulsive overeating disorder are no different.
Why compulsive overeating should receive treatment
One reason why women should receive treatment is the fact that like any addiction, this is harmful for physical and mental health.
It could cause abnormal weight gain that could be life threatening. Also the mental health implications of low self esteem and the disordered coping mechanisms should be addressed swiftly.