Food Addiction Versus Binge Eating: What is the Difference?

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With the amount of misinformation circulating in the media and the frequent attempts to “self-diagnosis” by searching signs and symptoms that might be experienced, it is no wonder that there exists an extreme amount of confusion when it comes to eating disorders.

This, unfortunately, contributes to the many stereotypes believed about these diseases and related disorders, which can make it even more difficult for those who are struggling to reach out for the help they need for recovery and healing.

What is Food Addiction?

Is it possible for a person to be addicted to food in the same way that someone can become addicted to drugs or alcohol? While ongoing research is seeking to study and understand the basis of food addiction and resulting implications, there exists ample research that validates the premise of food addiction.

What exactly does food addiction look like and how does this differ from compulsive overeating or other diagnosable eating disorders, such as bulimia or binge eating disorder?

According to the Food Addiction Institute, food addiction is a disease that is characterized by a loss of control over the inability to stop eating certain foods.

Essentially, a person can become addicted to the chemical reactions resulting from the consumption of particular foods, particularly highly palatable foods containing increased levels of fat, sugar, and salt. A chemical dependency on food can be likened to a drug addict who becomes addicted to the high or euphoria experienced when abusing their substance of choice.

A person dealing with a food addiction may crave and eat particular foods, even when not feeling hungry or in need of nourishment.

Food Addiction Vs. Binge Eating Disorder

Summer healthy foodOn the surface, food addiction and binge eating disorder can appear very similar. It is important to note that binge eating disorder is a classified and diagnosable mental illness, often resulting from the combination of biological, emotional, environmental and psychosocial factors.

A person who is dealing with binge eating often does so as a result of many complex issues. Food addiction is more biochemical in nature, creating a dependency on a physical reaction resulting from the consumption of certain foods.

With these two food-related issues, professional treatment is necessary for intervention and help. If you think you may be struggling with a food addiction or binge eating disorder, be sure to reach out to a professional that can help you better understand what you might be facing.

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 14, 2016
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