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Compulsive overeating: abuse and addiction to food

Compulsive overeating: abuse and addiction to food

May 6, 2021

Binge eating disorder is a type of addiction in which the affected person performs periods of compulsive overeating of food (without the subsequent purgative behavior characteristic of bulimia nervosa) by ingesting a large quantity of caloric foods in a short period of time.

It is based, fundamentally, on the appearance and maintenance of an addiction to food that usually begins in adolescence, and like all eating disorders is more frequent in women than in men.

Episodes of sobreingesta: why they constitute an addiction?

We understand addiction by that process in which the person feels totally dominated and enslaved by the desire to consume.


It is experienced as something uncontrollable ; no matter how much the person uses his willpower, he ends up entering a state similar to that of depersonalization, a numbing of his rational faculties and a split of them, generating in the individual a somnambulistic state with a single destiny: the fridge, the place where it will satisfy the impulses produced by the food addiction.

What causes binge eating disorder?

Neuroscience attributes this disorder to an imbalance in the reward centers of the brain . When eating compulsively, the person abnormally releases certain neurotransmitters related to the sensation of well-being (dopamine and serotonin) which causes it to end up "hooking" to certain foods, especially caloric foods with a high content of sugar, flour and salt.


This would explain the maintenance of the behavior but ... what is the trigger? Is it a disorder in itself ... or is it a symptom, a clue, a pathological correction of a more hidden and unknown process? What kind of voids does the person try to fill up to the extreme? Are you "swallowing" your own emotions in the face of the impossibility of externalizing them assertively?

Many hypotheses can be generated in this regard, but as always happens in psychotherapy, must be considered case by case and person by person to know the concrete causes that lead to the compingement sobreingesta.

What are the consequences of compulsive eating?

Once carried out the ritual of binge eating driven by the addiction to food, the person is likely to generate feelings of guilt and shame , as well as repentance for not being able to take charge of the situation.


In the long run, the person will develop what is known in psychology as expectations of uncontrollability; Following a series of failures, the belief that there is no contingency between the efforts made and the results obtained will appear in the person consciously or unconsciously. Despite the different strategies used, it ends again and again carrying out the action that it tries so hard to avoid.

The expectation of uncontrollability

The expectation of uncontrollability leads the person to move from a state of frustration and anger to a state of despair, of passivity, believing that nothing can be done to change the situation (see Seligman's theory of learned helplessness). This can generate dysthymic or depressive states, or crystallize existing disorders, since binge eating has a high comorbidity with other psychological disorders such as depression, mood disorders or derealization.

In addition to the psychological consequences, the person, not being well fed, will develop other symptoms related to various areas of the body, such as overweight, obesity, diabetes, chronic fatigue or sleep disorders.

Self-esteem will also be clearly affected, since feelings of self-efficacy will decrease after every uncontrolled binge. Because of the addiction to food, the person may feel weak, impotent and invalid , and generate a whole series of negative thoughts towards yourself that will only make you chronify the problem.

How to fight addiction to food?

The main challenge to overcome this and any other type of disorder is that the person returns to believe in herself and learns behavior dynamics different from those that tie her to an unhealthy lifestyle.

It is imperative that you realize that the uncontrollability you feel is just an illusion , which is fully empowered to make decisions, although it lacks the appropriate tools to do so.

Therefore, the accompaniment of a well-trained professional who acts in two aspects is highly recommended. On the one hand, one must work on compulsive symptoms to correct and eradicate them, and on the other has to investigate the causes of such behavior to nip in the bud with the initial pathology .

Going to a specialist is essential

That person who feels identified with the symptoms described, should not forget that vulnerability is a temporary state, never a descriptive characteristic of personality.

Because we must emphasize the fact that anyone has the ability to tackle the problem Going immediately to a qualified specialist with whom you can face the fight against food addiction. In this way you can start making the right decisions that lead to the improvement of one's own well-being.

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Weighing In on Food Addiction, Food Abuse, and Compulsive Eating (May 2021).


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