Reality of Food Addiction, Compulsive Overeating

Causes and psychological impact of compulsive overeating. And compulsive overeating vs. food addiction?

Is Food Addiction a Real Addiction?

It has become common to talk about a variety of compulsive behaviors to be, in fact, an "addictive disorder." Whether it is sex, shopping, gambling, binging and vomiting, internet usage - the term "addiction" is frequently used to describe the cause and the process. The same is true for compulsive eating as well - as some refer to it as food addiction. While, clearly, compulsive overeating is problematic and injurious to health and dangerous to life itself, it is still unclear about the "true underlying cause" of this behavior. Although scientists at the NIMH and academic universities argue about the issue of whether this behavior represents a true "addiction," the reality is that compulsive overeating is a significant problem, both for the sufferer as well as for society in general.

Why Do People Overeat?

Scientists do agree that the cause of compulsive overeating is generally not simply the result of "weakness of will - or flawed character." Only now are we beginning to understand the significance of imbalances of chemicals that control the feelings of the desire for food (hunger) and fullness (satiety). There also seems to be a genetic predisposition for becoming obese. This is in addition to the role that watching parents compulsively overeat may itself lead to inappropriate eating behavior in the child.

We know that some overeaters engage in the behavior due to the sense of psychological relief it provides. Some overeat due to depression, guilt, shame, anxiety, or stress. Others have little idea why they overeat - they just do so out of habit, or boredom. They feel compelled to overeat, anxious if they do not give in to the compulsion, and guilty at the end result. The result of compulsive overeating is the promotion of further negative emotions including embarrassment and shame, as well as the obvious deterioration of good health, and often the "solution" experienced by the compulsive overeater is to repeat the behavior.

During our Tuesday (Aug. 4) HealthyPlace TV show on food addiction, we will discuss the scientific controversy, as well as practical ways of controlling the undesired behavior of compulsive overeating as well.

You can watch it live (7:30p CT, 8:30 ET) and on-demand on our website.

Dr. Harry Croft is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist and Medical Director of Dr. Croft is also the co-host of the HealthyPlace TV Show.

next: Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder
~ other mental health articles by Dr. Croft

APA Reference
(2009, August 2). Reality of Food Addiction, Compulsive Overeating, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 from

Last Updated: January 14, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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