The Food Addiction exists, and it is a disease just like tobacco or alcohol addiction, being considered more than an occasional dietary excess. It affects both sexes but statistically it seems that women are more prone to Food Addiction than men. Moreover, the studies on this disorder have found out that Food Addiction is linked to trauma in women. Keep reading to find out how is that possible and how to keep Food Addiction under control.
What is Food Addiction?
Food addiction does not have an exact definition, but the food addict is characterized by the same behavior a tobacco or alcohol addict has. It is not a physical affection but rather has psychological causes. The main signs that leave the food addicted are:
- Excessive food intake, despite knowing the consequences for health (eating to induce nausea or vomiting).
- Increased appetite.
- Increased food consumption and lack of hunger.
- The inability to stop eating even if you are tired.
- Eating stressed, boredom, lack of occupation for emotional comfort.
- Feelings of guilt or shame occurring at the end of an episode of eating.
- Finding permanent excuses for overeating.
But food addiction is not classified as a mental illness. It is a term used to describe stress-related behavior.
It is not clear why some people become addicted to food, but scientists have made a stunning discovery. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that women who have post-traumatic stress symptoms have a greater chance of suffering of Food Addiction.
Previous studies have demonstrated a link between post-traumatic stasis and obesity, so the research team wanted to find out what is the emotional addiction to food and what it has to do with this type of stress.
Researchers have gathered data from over 49,000 women patients who were already asked about post-traumatic stress and food addiction in two separate sessions.
About 81% of women reported traumatic experiences in their lives, while 19% said they had between one and three symptoms of stress.
After making the calculations, the scientists have found that a woman’s chances of having Food Addiction increase proportionally with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
Stress and PTSD in women
Stress is the disease of the century, and women are more affected by this disease than men. Stress, in the simplest way, can be defined as a disease that can result from too much tension. The problem is that stress can lead to anxiety and depression.
First of all, we need to know the causes that lead to stress in women. These may be related to workplace problems, personal relationship issues, financial issues, loneliness, health problems, or the loss of a loved one.
Besides headaches, stressed women can suffer from back pain or stomach cramps. Another major symptom of stress among women is insomnia. Many stressed women suffer from a lack of sleep, and this is seen in everyday life.
And too many sleepless nights will lead to severe headaches and irritability. A stressed woman can be angry, can switch moods often, and can sometimes cry out of the blue.
The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by three major categories of problems:
- persistent reliving of the traumatic event
- persistent avoidance of trauma-associated stimuli
- persistent symptoms of neuro-physiological hyperactivity
Intrusive symptoms of PTSD:
- Memories of the trauma (images, smells, sounds, feelings and emotions)
- Nightmares related to the trauma
- Intense emotional reactions (fear, nervousness, sadness or guilt) at evoking the trauma
- Physical symptoms (sweating, muscle tension) caused by the evocation of the trauma
Symptoms of avoidance and emotional paralysis:
- Trying to avoid anything related to trauma
- Memory gaps
- Loss of interest for normal activities
- The feeling of isolation and detachment from others
- Feeling numb or emotional
- Limiting future prospects
Symptoms of neuro-physiological hyperactivity:
- Restless sleep
- Anger and irritability
- Concentration difficulties
- Permanent search for signs of danger
- Nervousness, nervous outbursts
In the case of PTSD, the threat is perceived as current and permanent and consequently we have a permanent defensive attitude even if there is nothing dangerous at the moment.
PTSD is one of the most complex disorders, and a number of psychological, social, and biological factors contribute to the appearance and maintenance of it.
PTSD is classified as an anxiety disorder, and typically when anxiety is concerned, the person is afraid of something, or feels a threat regarding something. Unlike other anxiety disorders, in the case of PTSD, the menacing event has already taken place.
Both the stress and the PTSD are pushing people to different addictions, from food addiction, to alcohol addiction, and further more, to drugs addiction. Any type of addiction is accepted by the sufferer as a relieving method, but, in reality, it is only offering a short-term relief. On the long term, the addiction is not the proper treatment for stress or PTSD, on the contrary, any addiction will maintain or elevate the problems.
In women, stress and PTSD have been shown to lead to Food Addiction, which eventually leads to obesity and the obesity-related health issues.
How to keep the Food Addiction under control?
Regardless of what is triggering Food Addiction, this disorder can be kept under control or even be treated following the next steps:
- Recognize that you are addicted to food – the first step in recovering from any addiction is to recognize that you have a problem. An attempt to refuse to accept that you are addicted, further raises the problem and prevents you from coping with it. Once you recognize, you are better able to take care of yourself and take the necessary steps to overcome it correctly and effectively.
- Identify dangerous foods – any food addict has a few foods that can not be avoided, such as sweets or fast food. Identify these key foods that make you eat without ceasing, in order to keep them away from you.
- Set your emotional issues – addiction is a disease, but it has psychological or emotional causes. It is important to understand what is happening to you and what causes you to eat excessively. If you fail to solve your emotional problems that add to your addiction, turn to the psychologist.
- Determine the key moments of the day when you tend to eat excessively – there are certain moments of the day when food addicts consume the most food. Some do it at night, others at work, or immediately afterwards. Once you identify these moments, you can harness healthy and low-calorie snacks that you can consume in those moments and help prevent obesity, a natural consequence of over-eating.
- Eat a little and often every day – it is important to control food consumption so that meals are spread throughout the day, so as to avoid the appearance of hunger. If you get to the point where you are hungry, you risk giving yourself to over-eating, even if you do not need such high consumption.
- Do not punish yourself if you eat too much – the punitive methods used by food addicts do more harm than the well-being they face. They end up punishing themselves for eating by appealing to more food or by harming themselves. Both variants are harmful to their health. The solution in a food addict’s diet is the rational consumption in small and frequent quantities, not by eating meals or consuming more unhealthy food.
While these 6 steps are designed to keep the Food Addiction under control, a proper treatment for what disorder is causing the Food Addiction is necessary, therefore treating the causes may also help treat the effect.