What is Food Addiction?
Although food addiction is not currently recognized as a formal diagnosis in the DSM-5, many experts in the area of addiction and substance are advocating for food to be recognized as a substance use disorder. The criteria for substance use disorders are as follows:
The 11 DSM-5 criteria for a substance use disorder include:
- Hazardous use: You’ve used the substance in ways that are dangerous to yourself and/or others, i.e., overdosed, driven while under the influence, or blacked out.
- Social or interpersonal problems related to use: Your substance use has caused relationship problems or conflicts with others.
- Neglected major roles to use: You’ve failed to meet your responsibilities at work, school, or home because of your substance use.
- Withdrawal: When you’ve stopped using the substance, you’ve experienced withdrawal symptoms.
- Tolerance: You’ve built up a tolerance to the substance so that you have to use more to get the same effect.
- Used larger amounts/longer: You’ve started to use larger amounts or use the substance for longer amounts of time.
- Repeated attempts to control use or quit: You’ve tried to cut back or quit entirely, but haven’t been successful.
- Much time spent using: You spend a lot of your time using the substance.
- Physical or psychological problems related to use: Your substance use has led to physical health problems like liver damage or lung cancer, or psychological issues, such as depression or anxiety.
- Activities given up to use: You’ve skipped activities or stopped doing activities you once enjoyed in order to use the substance.
- Craving: You’ve experienced cravings for the substance.
How can you help?
The reason I can help is because I have experienced it personally and have been steeped in the brain research (see Nora Volkow at NIH) and passionately believe that food addiction requires a very different set of interventions and strategies to recover from than an eating disorder (binge eating disorder, specifically). Moderation for an addict has not been shown to be effective and it is similar for food addiction.
The first step is to identify what type of eater you are. As mentioned, getting the diagnosis right is the most important step in deciding upon which interventions to use. The first step is to go through criteria to help determine if in fact, you are a food addict. Once that is established, a very purposeful and evidence based set of tools and strategies is introduced and practised.
Begin to feel better…
There is hope!! The most important thing to understand when one has struggled with food addiction is to realize that a lot of the mainstream dietary approaches and advice may not work for them. You CAN feel better when you understand the brain science and are given the right tools to help with your recovery. My hope is that every single person who struggles with food is able to find recovery and freedom from the obsession. It is my mission to help you on that journey.