Food and how we consume it is associated with a considerable range of situations in our lives. Whether we are sitting down to the family dinner, attending a social function of grabbing a meal on the go, how we relate to food can say a lot about who we are and what we are feeling. For the majority of the population, occasional excessive indulgence in food is associated with holiday functions or special events and, while not particularly healthful, does not necessarily indicate a behavioral problem. However, there are a number of individuals for whom overeating is a serious emotional issue with major physiological ramifications.
Individuals suffering with compulsive overeating disorder demonstrate an obsessive or compulsive relationship with food and this behavior is sometimes defined as a food addiction. These individuals frequently are unable to limit their consumption of food and will engage in bouts of uncontrolled eating (also known as bingeing) and will regularly continue to eat beyond the point of satiety to the stage of uncomfortable fullness. It is common for compulsive overeaters to eat when they are not experiencing hunger and they also typically fantasize or spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about food. Additionally, their episodes of binge eating are often prompt feelings of depression and guilt.
There are clearly a number of health issues for those suffering with compulsive overeating disorder. In addition to obesity, compulsive overeaters are in danger of developing complications such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and high cholesterol. It is important to note that even though obesity is a common symptom of compulsive overeating disorder, individuals who could be categorized as being of normal or average weight may also suffer from the disorder. As with any eating disorder, compulsive overeating is assessed by an analysis of one’s behavioral patterns and relationship with food rather than his or her physical appearance.
If you are concerned you or a loved one may be suffering with a compulsive overeating disorder, look for some of the following symptoms:
- Eating even when not hungry
- Daydreaming or excessive thoughts about food
- Fluctuations in weight
- Episodes of depression or feelings of guilt related to overeating
- Hiding foods for consumption in secret
- Grazing – eating small amount of food throughout the day that result in a significant intake of calories.
The above list is not comprehensive and only a mental health professional specializing in treating eating disorders will be able to accurately assess compulsive overeating disorder. Seek out a treatment program that addresses both the underlying emotional issues of eating disorders and which also offers medical management of the physiological aspects of compulsive overeating disorder. A comprehensive course of treatment that focuses on the individual rather than the symptoms of the disorder will offer the greatest hope for effective and lasting recovery.