February 14, 2013

Compulsive Overeating and Drug Addiction – The Surprising Parallels

Compulsive Overeating and Co-Occurring Disorders

A recent Psychology Today article highlights the similarities between food addiction and drug addiction in an attempt to convey the serious health risks associated with chronic and compulsive overeating. Some of these parallels are perhaps not so astonishing. We don’t have to read studies to know that an obese person carries with him a harsh societal stigma, just as a drug addict or an alcoholic does.  In fact, obesity may well top drug and alcohol addiction when it comes to eliciting public scorn. After all an obese person cannot hide his condition, while an alcoholic in some cases may. And anyone who has struggled with either substance abuse or compulsive overeating — or has been close to a person who has — knows that denial comes with the territory. But some of the other facts laid out in this article might surprise you. Just as drug addicts very often struggle with co-occurring disorders, so do people who engage in compulsive overeating.

“Roughly half of drug addicts struggle with other mental health disorders. According to researchers from Toronto’s York University, it is also common for compulsive eaters to have other mental health issues such as depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. They were also three times more likely than others to meet the criteria for binge eating.

It’s no wonder it’s so difficult to lose weight: Many of the same factors that embroil people in a lifelong battle with drug and alcohol addiction are at work when we eat junk foods. While there are clear differences between drug addiction and compulsive eating, the similarities have become increasingly difficult to deny. If research continues in this direction, we may find medications and behavioral therapies playing an even more central role in the treatment of obesity.”

 

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