Treatment Options for an Eating Addiction

Woman thinking about how Substance abuse can cause COVID vulnerability

Due to more awareness of drug and alcohol addiction, people are generally knowledgeable of the fact that professional help and treatment is available for substance abuse addiction. What about other forms of addiction, such as a food addiction?

What people may not understand is that addiction does occur in various forms, not just in substance abuse, and anything used in an extreme way can lead to detrimental consequences.

Less understood

While a food addiction may be lesser known or understood than an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it does not negate the fact that countless individuals are struggling with this disorder everyday.

For some people, the struggle with a food addiction can be so severe that it interferes with their ability to function normally on a daily basis, negatively impacting their overall quality of life.

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Some individuals dealing with a food addiction may even be in denial about their own behaviors or learn how to live through the many different aspects they might be struggling with.

A food addiction can greatly affect a person in multiple ways: physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, socially, and financially. It may be easy to assume that developing an addiction to food is harmless because the consequences are not as obvious or apparent as an addiction to drugs or alcohol, but this is simply not the case.

In the same way that a drug or alcohol creates a chemical dependency with repeated use, individuals who develop a food addiction also develop a chemical dependency with specific foods or food in general. Some of the more common foods that people might become addicted to include those that are highly palatable, such as foods concentrated in salt, fat, and/or sugar.

Young man buying fresh vegetables at farmer's market

A food addiction is commonly mistaken or generalized as a lack of control when it comes to eating or the impulsive to “over-indulge”. However, there is much more involved with the development of a food addiction.

Similarly to other forms of addiction, a food addiction is influenced by multiple factors, some which are essentially out of a person’s control, such as genetic predisposition and neurobiology. Other factors that might influence a food addiction include environmental stressors, the experience of trauma, underlying psychological or behavioral disorders, and more.

Complex factors

Because of the complex number of factors involved in the development of a food addiction, comprehensive treatment is critical for treatment and recovery.

Some individuals who struggle with a food addiction may find it frustrating that they cannot just “stop” their eating behaviors or that they find themselves in a repetitive and vicious cycle with food and eating.

When several factors are interplaying with a food addiction, focusing on correcting the behavior itself is essentially attempting to treat the symptom and not the problem.

Working with a cohesive treatment team can help a person dealing with a food addiction find true healing and recovery.


The good news for food addicts is that professional help and treatment does exist and is available today. There is no need to try to fight against this alone, and connecting to help as early as possible can help improve prognosis. Treatment options can range based on severity of the addiction.

For example, a person who might be suffering with acute medical or psychological complications as a result of a food addiction may be more appropriate for a residential level of care, in which treatment is provided around the clock.

Other individuals may find sufficient care at an outpatient level, in which they are able to meet regularly with a therapist, psychiatrist, and dietitian who specialize in food addiction.

In order to determine what level of care and treatment might be most appropriate for you, it is important to be evaluated by a professional who can guide you and make recommendations in terms of treatment. Connecting with a food addiction specialist is a necessary first step towards getting the help you need and beginning your recovery journey today.

Crystal Karges photo

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 31, 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.