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Food addiction, also known as binge eating disorder or compulsive overeating, is a psychological disorder characterised by a compulsive and uncontrollable urge to eat, even when not physically hungry.

This disorder affects a person’s relationship with food and can lead to serious health consequences if left untreated. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, food addiction is estimated to affect 2-5% of the general population.

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With proper treatment and support, it is possible to overcome food addiction and develop a healthy relationship with food. Seeking professional food addiction help is crucial for anyone struggling with this disorder.

We have addiction treatment centres in Lancashire, Manchester, London and various other cities in the UK.

What Is Food Addiction?

Food addiction is a compulsive relationship with food that is similar to drug or alcohol addiction.

It involves a loss of control and an inability to stop consuming certain foods, despite negative consequences.

People with food addiction often experience cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and an obsession with food. It can lead to weight gain, health problems, and emotional distress.

Understanding what food addiction is can help individuals seek appropriate support and treatment to regain control over their eating habits.

Signs Of Food Addiction

Food addiction is a serious issue that can have a detrimental impact on one’s physical and emotional well-being.

But what exactly are the signs of food addiction? In this section, we will delve into the various behaviours and patterns that may indicate a food addiction.

From eating despite feeling full to obsessing over food, we will explore the common signs of food addiction and how they can impact one’s relationship with food.

Eating Despite Being Full

Eating despite being full is a common sign of food addiction. If you find yourself struggling with this behaviour, here are some steps to help overcome it:

  1. Recognise the feeling of fullness: Pay attention to your body’s physical cues and acknowledge when you are full.
  2. Practice mindful eating: Slow down and savour each bite, focusing on the taste and texture of the food.
  3. Identify triggers: Determine what emotions or situations lead to overeating and find healthier ways to cope with them.
  4. Develop alternative behaviours: Find activities or hobbies that can distract you from overeating when you feel full.
  5. Seek support: Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist who can provide guidance and encouragement in overcoming food addiction.

Eating Alone and in Secret

Eating alone and in secret can be signs of food addiction. If you find yourself engaging in this behaviour, here are some steps to consider:

  1. Recognise the behaviour: Acknowledge that eating alone and in secret is not a healthy or normal way of consuming food.
  2. Identify triggers: Understand the emotions or situations that lead to this behaviour, such as feelings of shame, guilt, or the need for comfort.
  3. Seek support: Reach out to a therapist or counsellor who specialises in food addiction to help address the underlying issues and develop coping strategies.
  4. Build a support network: Connect with support groups or communities where you can share experiences and receive encouragement from others going through similar challenges.
  5. Create a meal plan: Develop a structured meal plan that includes regular, balanced meals and snacks to reduce the urge to eat alone and in secret.
  6. Practice mindful eating: Focus on the present moment while eating, paying attention to hunger and fullness cues, and savouring the flavours and textures of food.
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Obsessing Over Food

Obsessing over food is a common sign of food addiction. If you find yourself constantly preoccupied with thoughts of food, here are some steps to help manage this obsession:

Feeling Guilty or Ashamed After Eating

Feeling guilty or ashamed after eating is a common sign of food addiction. It often stems from a lack of control or excessive consumption of unhealthy foods.

This negative emotional response can perpetuate a cycle of binge eating and further reinforce the addiction. It is important to address these feelings and seek professional help to break free from the cycle.

Therapy and counselling can help individuals develop healthier coping mechanisms and improve their relationship with food. Support groups provide a safe space to share experiences and seek guidance from others going through similar struggles.

Medications and lifestyle changes may also be recommended as part of the treatment plan.

Difficulty Controlling Food Intake

Difficulty controlling food intake is a common sign of food addiction. If you’re struggling to manage your eating habits, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Recognise the problem: Acknowledge that you have difficulty controlling your food intake and understand that it may be a sign of food addiction.
  2. Seek professional food addiction help: Consult with a healthcare professional or therapist who specialises in food addiction to receive proper guidance and support.
  3. Develop a plan: Work with a professional to create a personalised plan to help you regain control over your food intake.
  4. Practice mindful eating: Learn to listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, and eat with awareness and intention.
  5. Create a supportive environment: Surround yourself with people who understand your struggles and can provide encouragement and support.

What Causes Food Addiction?

The prevalence of food addiction has been on the rise in recent years, affecting millions of individuals worldwide. But what exactly causes this over-reliance on food for comfort, pleasure, and emotional regulation?

In this section, we will explore the various factors that contribute to food addiction, including genetics, brain chemistry, and emotional triggers. By understanding the root causes of this addictive behaviour, we can begin to address and overcome it.


There is evidence that genetics can play a role in food addiction. Here are some steps to consider regarding the influence of genetics on food addiction:

  1. Family history: Look for patterns of addictive behaviours or substance abuse in your family members.
  2. Genetic predisposition: Understand that certain genes may increase the likelihood of developing addictive tendencies towards food.
  3. Gene-environment interaction: Recognise that genetic factors can interact with environmental factors, such as food availability and stress, to contribute to food addiction.
  4. Seek professional guidance: Consult with healthcare professionals who can assess your genetic risk factors and provide personalised advice and treatment options.

Brain Chemistry

Brain chemistry plays a crucial role in food addiction. When we consume certain foods, it triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward.

In individuals with food addiction, the brain’s reward system becomes dysregulated, leading to a heightened response to food cues and a reduced ability to control food intake. This dysregulation is influenced by various factors such as genetics, hormonal imbalances, and changes in brain structure and function.

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Understanding the impact of brain chemistry on food addiction is vital in developing effective treatment strategies, including therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes.

Emotional Triggers

Emotional triggers play a significant role in food addiction. Recognising and addressing these triggers is essential for effective food addiction treatment. Here are steps to manage emotional triggers in food addiction:

  1. Identify triggers: Recognise specific emotions (stress, boredom, sadness) that lead to overeating.
  2. Develop coping strategies: Find alternative activities (exercise, hobbies) to deal with emotions instead of turning to food.
  3. Seek support: Engage in therapy or counselling to understand and manage emotional triggers.
  4. Practice mindfulness: Stay present in the moment, observe emotions without judgement, and make conscious choices about eating.
  5. Build a support network: Surround yourself with individuals who understand and support your efforts to manage emotional triggers.

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How Is Food Addiction Diagnosed?

Diagnosing food addiction involves a combination of self-assessment and professional evaluation. Here are the steps typically followed in diagnosing food addiction:

  1. Self-Assessment: Individuals can evaluate their eating behaviour using questionnaires or assessments specifically designed to identify addictive eating patterns.
  2. Clinical Evaluation: A healthcare professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, will conduct a comprehensive evaluation to assess symptoms, medical history, and psychological factors.
  3. Diagnostic Criteria: The healthcare professional will use established diagnostic criteria, such as those in the DSM-5, to determine if the individual meets the criteria for a diagnosis of food addiction.
  4. Exclusion of Other Conditions: Other medical or psychiatric conditions that may contribute to disordered eating, such as binge eating disorder or substance abuse, will be ruled out.
  5. Treatment Planning: Based on the diagnosis, a treatment plan will be developed, which may include therapy, support groups, and lifestyle changes.

Effects Of Food Addiction

Food addiction can have a profound impact on both physical and mental health. In this section, we will delve into the various effects of food addiction and how they can manifest in individuals.

From the well-known consequences of weight gain and obesity to the lesser-known effects of nutritional deficiencies and health complications, we will explore the wide-reaching implications of this addiction.

Understanding these effects can aid in recognising and addressing food addiction in ourselves and others.

Weight Gain and Obesity

Weight gain and obesity are common effects of food addiction. To address this issue, individuals can take the following steps:

Nutritional Deficiencies

Food addiction can lead to nutritional deficiencies, as individuals with this condition often consume large quantities of unhealthy foods while neglecting nutrient-rich options. To address these deficiencies, the following steps can be taken:

  1. Consult a healthcare professional: Seek guidance from a nutritionist or dietitian to assess your specific nutritional needs.
  2. Focus on balanced meals: Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your diet.
  3. Supplement when necessary: Consider taking vitamin and mineral supplements to address any specific deficiencies identified by your healthcare professional.
  4. Monitor food labels: Pay attention to nutritional information on packaged foods to ensure you are meeting your recommended daily intake of essential nutrients.
  5. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to support overall health and ensure optimal nutrient absorption.
  6. Seek support: Engage in therapy or support groups to address the underlying causes of food addiction and develop healthier eating habits.
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Health Complications

Food addiction can lead to several health complications, including:

  1. Weight Gain and Obesity: Excessive consumption of high-calorie foods can result in weight gain and obesity, increasing the risk of conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
  2. Nutritional Deficiencies: People with food addiction often prioritise unhealthy foods over nutritious options, leading to deficiencies in essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
  3. Health Complications: Food addiction can contribute to various health issues, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, digestive problems, and hormonal imbalances.

It is crucial to address food addiction to mitigate these health risks and improve overall well-being.

How Can Food Addiction Be Treated?

Food addiction is a serious issue that can negatively impact a person’s physical and mental health. Thankfully, there are various methods to help treat food addiction and promote a healthier relationship with food.

In this section, we will discuss the different approaches to treating food addiction, including therapy and counselling, support groups, medications, and lifestyle changes. By understanding these options, those struggling with food addiction can find the best path towards recovery.

Therapy and Counselling

Therapy and counselling are essential components in treating food addiction. Here are some steps involved in this process:

  1. Seek professional help: Reach out to a therapist or counsellor who specialises in addiction and has experience in treating food addiction.
  2. Assessment: The therapist will conduct a thorough assessment to understand the underlying causes and triggers of the addiction.
  3. Individual therapy: One-on-one therapy sessions will help you explore and address the emotional, psychological, and behavioural factors contributing to food addiction.
  4. Group therapy: Participating in group therapy provides a supportive environment to share experiences, gain insight, and learn from others facing similar challenges.
  5. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT): CBT helps identify and modify unhealthy thoughts and behaviours related to food addiction.
  6. Skills training: Learn coping strategies, stress management techniques, and healthy ways to deal with cravings and triggers.
  7. Relapse prevention: Develop a relapse prevention plan with your therapist to anticipate and manage potential setbacks.

We offer addiction therapy from Devon up to the top of Scotland. Contact us today for more information.

Support Groups

Support groups can be a valuable resource for individuals struggling with food addiction.


Medications can be a helpful component in the food addiction treatment process. Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Consult with a healthcare professional: A doctor or psychiatrist can assess your situation and determine if medication is appropriate.
  2. Select the right medication: Different medications may be prescribed based on individual needs. Options may include appetite suppressants or medications that target cravings.
  3. Follow dosage instructions: Take the medication exactly as prescribed by your healthcare professional. Avoid adjusting the dosage without their guidance.
  4. Monitor side effects: Be aware of any potential side effects and report them to your healthcare professional. They can help address any concerns.
  5. Combine medication with therapy: Medications are often most effective when used in conjunction with therapy or counselling to address the underlying causes of food addiction.
  6. Regularly evaluate progress: Work with your healthcare professional to assess the effectiveness of the medication and make any necessary adjustments to your food addiction treatment plan.
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Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes play a crucial role in managing food addiction and promoting long-term recovery. Here are some effective strategies to consider:

  1. Develop a healthy eating plan: Create a balanced and nutritious meal plan that includes whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
  2. Practice portion control: Learn to listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, and avoid overeating or restricting yourself.
  3. Engage in regular physical activity: Incorporate regular exercise into your routine to help manage stress, boost mood, and support overall well-being.
  4. Manage stress: Find healthy ways to cope with stress, such as mindfulness techniques, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies and activities you enjoy.
  5. Build a support system: Surround yourself with supportive friends, and family, or join support groups to share experiences and receive encouragement.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is food addiction?

Food addiction is a psychological and emotional addiction to specific foods and substances. It is characterised by a constant obsession with food, overeating behaviours, secretive behaviours, and an inability to stop overeating.

What are some common causes of food addiction?

The main cause of food addiction is the brain’s reaction to certain types of foods, such as highly sugary or fatty foods, which can create feelings of pleasure and lead to addiction. Emotional eating and using food to cope with negative emotions can also contribute to food addiction.

What are some signs and symptoms of food addiction?

Common signs and symptoms of food addiction include eating when not physically hungry, eating beyond the point of fullness, obsessively thinking about food, and feeling guilty after eating.

How can food addiction impact physical and emotional health?

Food addiction can have serious consequences for both physical and mental health. This can include digestive issues, heart disease, obesity, low self-esteem, depression, and isolation. Seeking professional help is crucial for those struggling with food addiction.

Is food addiction considered a type of addiction?

Yes, food addiction is considered a behavioural or process addiction, similar to substance addiction. The act of overeating is often a symptom of underlying psychological issues and can lead to physical and social consequences.

What avenues of help are available for those struggling with food addiction?

Treatment for food addiction typically involves therapy and support to address underlying issues and develop healthier coping mechanisms. There are also various support groups and educational resources available for those looking to overcome food addiction.

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