Many, if not most people indulge in a good, hearty meal every now and then. Holidays, celebrations and special occasions offer ample opportunities for eating larger meal portions than one would normally eat. When this level of eating becomes a focal point in a person’s daily life, the makings of a compulsive overeating disorder may be at work.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, compulsive overeating disorder, also known as binge eating disorder, exists as the most common eating-based disorder within the United States affecting 3.25 percent of women and two percent of men.
Much like drug and alcohol use disorders, overeating or “food abuse” brings on many of the same consequences as a substance abuse disorder. When left untreated, overeating can easily turn into a compulsive overeating disorder.
Compulsive Overeating Disorder
Compulsive overeating disorder plays the same role as compulsive drug use, enabling a person to better cope with daily life stressors and responsibilities. According to the University of Michigan Health System, people affected by this condition ingest large amounts of food within a short period of time and are unable to control this behavior.
For many, stress, anxiety, boredom or depression can trigger overeating behaviors. Consequently, it’s not uncommon for a person to struggle with compulsive overeating disorder on top of a full-blown depression or anxiety disorder.
People with compulsive overeating disorder also run a high risk of becoming obese, though some are able to maintain a relatively normal body weight. On average, an estimated two to three people affected by compulsive overeating disorder are obese.
Signs of Compulsive Overeating Disorder
Rather than eat in response to hunger, someone living with compulsive overeating disorder eats for emotional reasons and so uses food as a primary coping mechanism. Not unlike the “high” drug users experience, overeating provides a person with a sense of calm, contentment and even euphoria in some cases.
- An inability to control intake amounts
- Eating to the point where one feels uncomfortably full
- Eating alone to hide compulsive overeating behavior
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, restlessness and depression when “needed” food amounts are inaccessible
Over time, compulsive overeating behaviors train the brain to assign a high priority to food and any activities having to do with eating, much like drugs and drug-related activities take on top priority in a person’s life.
Once a person starts sacrificing important relationships, work responsibilities and/or his or her health and well-being for the sake of overeating, a full-blown food addiction has taken hold.
The weight gain that results from compulsive overeating disorder places individuals at considerable risk of developing other serious health conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure among others. Without needed treatment help, the emotional and psychological triggers that drive overeating behaviors will only grow stronger with time.
If you or someone you know struggles with overeating, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-598-5053 to speak with one of our addictions specialists.