Anxiety Disorders and Food Addiction: When Food Becomes a Means of Coping

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There is a great deal of misunderstanding when it comes to addiction. Many individuals understand an addiction to be a loss of self-control or an inability to regulate desires or needs.

However, an addiction is deeply rooted in many complex factors, things that are often out of a person’s control, such as genetics and neurobiology.

A person who struggles with addiction may also be dealing with an underlying mental illness, such as mood disorder, which can further influence their addictive behaviors.

Different Forms of Anxiety

Anxiety disorders can occur in many different forms, including social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and panic disorder.

Anxiety disorders are mental illnesses that can severely interfere with a person’s overall quality of life if not properly addressed.

Many individuals who struggle with an anxiety disorder may experience a level of distress that compromise an ability to carry out normal and daily activities.

For some people dealing with an anxiety disorder, the use of a substance may become a means of coping with overwhelming circumstances.

For example, a person who is struggling with some form of anxiety may begin to turn to food as an escape or attempt to “numb” feelings of distress.

Highly palatable foods, such as foods concentrated in sugars, fats, and salts, may trigger the release of neurochemicals in the brain that are associated with pleasure and/or relaxation.

Means of Coping

Man reading a bookFor a person who is commonly experiencing intense feelings of distress as part of an anxiety disorder, an addiction to food may develop as a means or attempt to override the difficult emotions they are experiencing.

Using food for this purpose can lead to undesirable health effects, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and more.

The most effective means for coping with an anxiety disorder involves both psychotherapy and possibly medication.

If you are struggling with a food addiction and anxiety disorder, be sure to discuss with your doctor or addiction specialist about possible treatment options that may help you effectively deal with the disorders you are facing.

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About 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, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where 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 with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

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

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

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 8, 2016
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.