Many people have cravings for specific foods, particularly those that are salty or sweet. But sometimes, the desire for something satisfying to eat goes well beyond simply longing for a palatable pleasure.
Food addiction works just like an addiction to alcohol or drugs, where the brain becomes chemically dependent on the substance to function. It’s a chronic, progressive disease in which a woman or girl compulsively seeks out the foods she’s addicted to, then has difficulty controlling her urges despite evidence of negative consequences.
Food addiction isn’t about a lack of willpower, as the Food Addiction Institute explains. It’s a complex illness that requires professional treatment.
Common Signs & Symptoms of Food Addiction
It can be difficult to differentiate the signs and symptoms of food addiction from what a woman or girl might typically eat, especially if you don’t regularly interact with her.
Generally speaking, if you notice some or all of the following signs and symptoms, it might be time to look into professional treatment for food addiction:
- Eating to the point of feeling ill
- Eating in isolation
- Obtaining food in secrecy
- Spending large amounts of money on certain foods to binge
- Avoiding social interactions
- Difficulty concentrating
- Restlessness or irritability
- Digestive disorders
- Suicidal ideation
Causes & Risk Factors of Food Addiction
Food addiction is not a diagnosis you’ll find in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), and research is still in the relatively early stages.
There are a variety of genetic and environmental factors that likely contribute to food addiction, however. Some of these include:
- Genetic: Hormonal imbalances, abnormalities in brain structure, side effects from specific medications, family history of eating disorders or other mental health concerns
- Environmental: Low self-esteem, history of abuse or trauma, social isolation, family conflict
Prevalence of Food Addiction
The Yale Food Addiction Scale is one of the only tools that has been developed to specifically assess food addiction. First introduced in 2009 and with a second version in 2016, the updated scale measured food addiction prevalence of 7.9%.
A 2013 study of 652 men and women that used the Yale Food Addiction Scale found:
- 6.7% of women and 3.0% of men displayed symptoms of food addiction
- A large number of people didn’t meet all the criteria to be classified as having a food addiction, but demonstrated a strong link between food and addictive behavior
- Those with a food addiction tended to be heavier with higher body fat percentages
Why Seek Food Addiction Treatment
Food addiction can have a lot of negative ramifications if left untreated. It can affect you physically and emotionally, damage relationships with loved ones, make it difficult to maintain a job or perform in school, and generally wreak havoc until you decide to find a food addiction treatment program that can properly address the symptoms you’ve been struggling with.
Some of the effects you might experience without proper food addiction treatment include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Elevated cholesterol
- Sexual dysfunction
- Kidney or liver disease
- Financial problems
- Emotional detachment
Choosing the Right Food Addiction Treatment
As with any addiction, a food addiction can leave you stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of despair and hopelessness. Instead of enjoying life, you’ve likely withdrawn from the activities that gave you great joy only to fall into a pattern of compulsive eating that you can’t control.
Making the decision to get help is an enormous step, but it’s critical to choose the right treatment center with programming that addresses your specific needs instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach.
Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center believes each woman or girl who comes to us for food addiction treatment is unique. We develop individualized treatment plans that take into account your needs, strengths, and goals, and recognize that your experiences warrant specific interventions that will lead to the best outcomes.
Depending on where you are in your journey of recovery from food addiction, you’ll be part of either residential treatment or our partial hospitalization program (PHP).
Residential treatment lets women and girls step away from the distractions of everyday life so that they can focus exclusively on their health and well-being while staying in one of the inviting lodges on our campus. PHP consists of daylong food addiction treatment in a structured setting, but allows women who participate the freedom to return home in the evenings and on weekends.
The Food Addiction Treatment Experience
Like all programming at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, food addiction treatment consists of evidence-based methods and interventions that can help women and girls successfully recover and return to living happier, healthier lives.
During your time in our residential treatment or PHP, you’ll follow a food addiction treatment plan that’s specifically designed for you. But you’ll also experience some common elements of care, which may include:
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Individual therapy
- Experiential therapy
- Meal support
- Medication management
You’ll work with an expert team of licensed therapists and other addiction and mental health treatment professionals. Upon completion of food addiction treatment, you’ll have access to our alumnae community to stay connected to women and girls who have shared similar experiences.
We’ll also provide a detailed discharge plan that includes important resources to keep you healthy in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.
This content was reviewed and approved by the clinical staff at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center.