What is food addiction?
Food addiction is characterised by an individual experiencing a loss of control over their eating habits, causing them to compulsively overeat certain foods even when they are not hungry or in need of nourishment.
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Research indicates that highly palatable ‘junk’ foods such as those that are rich in salt, sugar and fat activate the brain’s ‘feel good’ chemicals, dopamine and serotonin, thus mimicking the effects that addictive drugs such as heroin and cocaine have on the human brain. The release of these ‘feel good’ chemicals triggers the brain’s reward pathway and overrides feelings of fullness, causing individuals to want to eat more and more of these types of food, even when they are not hungry. In addition, research demonstrates that those who are addicted to food may develop a form of tolerance, in that they find that the more they eat, the less they are satisfied by food.
What is the difference between food addiction and binge eating disorder?
When examining the features of food addiction, this condition appears to be very similar to binge eating disorder (BED), which is a form of eating disorder. However, it is important to recognise that there is a clear distinction between the two.
BED is a diagnosable and formally classified mental health condition, which often results from a combination of complex factors including emotional, environmental, biological and psychosocial influences. Comparatively, food addiction develops as a result of the physical reaction that an individual experiences after consuming certain foods, and as such, is more biochemical in nature than BED.
Food addiction treatment and therapy
At Priory, our addictions specialists understand that seeking help for your food addiction can be overwhelming. That’s why our addiction experts offer a free initial addiction assessment, enabling you to discuss your food addiction in a safe, supportive and highly compassionate environment.
Following your initial addiction assessment, your comprehensive and bespoke food addiction treatment plan will be developed by our expert multidisciplinary team. Your treatment plan will be personally tailored in order to ensure that the unique nature of your food addiction, as well as any underlying triggers or causes for your addictive behaviours, are addressed in an individualised manner, thus fostering the most positive outcomes for you.
The therapy that you will receive during food addiction treatment at Priory, will typically consist of a bespoke combination of therapeutic methods in order to address your unique addiction and facilitate recovery. Food addiction therapy may include:
- 1:1 therapy – 1:1 food addiction therapy takes place on an individual basis between you and the most appropriate addictions expert for your needs. 1:1 therapy is comprised of a detailed exploration of your food addiction as well as strategies that you can employ to overcome it.
- Group therapy – as its name suggests, group therapy for food addiction takes place as part of a broader group of addiction patients. This form of therapy allows you to share your addiction experiences with individuals who are experiencing the same challenges as you, receive feedback and guidance from each other and offer reciprocal support.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – CBT is a widely used therapeutic technique in the treatment of a wide range of addictions, including food addiction. The purpose of CBT is to challenge the dysfunctional thought patterns that are intensifying and exacerbating your addiction, before replacing these with healthier alternatives. This helps to change your unhealthy addictive behaviours and enables you to regain control of your life.
At Priory, we are able to offer comprehensive food addiction treatment on an inpatient, day patient or outpatient basis, depending on your individual needs and requirements, the intensity of the support that is needed, and the severity of your food addiction. These options will be explored during your initial assessment, and built into your bespoke food addiction treatment plan accordingly.
12-Step philosophy for food addiction
Food addiction treatment and therapy at Priory is underpinned by the renowned 12-Step philosophy, which is a well-known abstinence-based addiction treatment model, founded by the organisation Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The 12-Step model combines an individual’s food addiction with their spirituality and motivation to change, as a means of facilitating recovery.