How is food addiction diagnosed?

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Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

Food addiction refers to compulsive eating that is unrelated to actual hunger. The person feels compelled to eat even when he/she isn’t hungry. Although it is not considered a recognized addiction it can have a significant impact on a person's life and health. 

Food addicts often have:

  • underlying emotional problems
  • Low self-esteem
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Compulsive urge to eat
  • Lying to others about amount of food eaten
  • Inability to stop destructive eating behaviors
  • Eating when feeling depressed
  • Eating different foods when with other people
  • Eating in secret
  • Eating foods despite knowing their negative impact on health
  • Feelings of guilt after eating

Because food addiction has not been officially recognized as a medical condition in the mental health community, no specific guidelines for diagnosis have been created. People who believe they are food addicts can seek help from counselors who will ask questions about their relationship with food. Counselors and psychologists who deal with substance abuse issues may also be able to help with the diagnosis.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.