Are Eating Disorders Related to Food Addiction?

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Eating disorders can cause serious complications over time. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders are most commonly discussed when looking at people who struggle with food. Learn more about whether eating disorders are related to food addiction.

Relation to Addiction

Eating disorders are related in some ways to addiction. Some of the causes may include:

Physical: possible biochemical or biological causes of eating disorders are recognized. Certain chemicals in the brain that control hunger, appetite and digestion are typically found to be out of balance. Current research indicates significant genetic contributions to eating disorders as it may run in families.

Psychological: eating disorders are often an attempt to manage overwhelming feelings and emotions. Behavioral control over diet is one way to cope with painful emotions and feel in control of one’s life.

Spiritual: eating disorders provide greater power which brings purpose, meaning and hope to life.


Some of the treatments for eating disorders include a combination of medical with psychiatric treatment. The primary goal for treatment is to ensure the person has physical health restored to a weight that is supportive of that person. Oftentimes, the person may have excessive weight gain (overeating) or weight loss (anorexia) which can cause health complications or even death if not treated. Behavioral therapy can assist a person in returning to healthy eating habits. Supportive group therapy may follow and self-help groups within communities may provide ongoing support to get well.

Curing an Eating Disorder

The only way to provide a cure for behavioral addiction is total abstinence from the substance or behavior. This is done in a supportive environment, sometimes within a 12 step program. The 12 steps are designed to address psychological and spiritual causes of addiction while cleaning up one’s inner life and how that individual is driven to addiction. A 12-step program is not for every person as it may not be the best fit but there are many ways to get supportive intervention to help find help for the long road to recovery from an eating disorder.

Sustain Recovery provides a unique approach to adolescent care which focuses on the individual and provides long-term solutions to addiction. Call us to find out how we can help your adolescent get on the road to recovery.

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