Reports Suggest Binge Eating and Other Various Addiction Are Connected

Sometimes you might get a second serving of dinner or an extra slice of cake just because you’re enjoying the food so much. It can make you feel too full and perhaps a little guilty afterward but as long as this behavior doesn’t happen too often, you should be fine. Eating more than you need to feel full becomes a concern when it happens too frequently and feels uncontrollable.

Binge eating disorder (BED) is a type of eating disorder in which an individual compulsively and regularly consumes large amounts of food, even when it has negative effects on their health. They may feel unable to stop eating even when it causes physical discomfort. As a result, they often feel guilt or shame about their behavior, which can lead to anxiety and social isolation.

The symptoms are very similar to those experienced by individuals with substance use disorders, except that the addiction is to food rather than alcohol or drugs. While BED may not pose immediate risks as drugs do, it can lead to long-term health complications such as obesity, diabetes, and other diseases. Additionally, individuals with eating disorders are likely to experience substance abuse as well.

Similarities in Causes

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports[1] that half of the population with eating disorders also have a substance use disorder. Both are expressions of unhealthy behaviors and can often have the same causes. This is why treatments offered by Phoenix drug rehab centers and other facilities also include nutritional evaluation for all its patients.

Genetic Factors

Several studies have found genetic proof that addiction may be an inherited disease, thanks to mutations in genetic sequencing that may affect the brain’s perception of pleasure. Brain scans of individuals with eating disorders and substance use disorders show lower activity in the areas linked to self-control and dysfunction in dopamine pathways. This indicates that there may be a biological predisposition to addictive behaviors.

A guy with binge eating disorder

Family History

Behaviors can be learned from exposure to them at an early age. Children from families with a history of addiction are more likely to exhibit the same behaviors. The use of substances can become part of their norm, and they may be encouraged to participate by influential persons like parents and friends. Alternatively, some people may use drugs to self-medicate traumas from abusive households.

Environmental Influences

The world at large can also be influential in creating unhealthy behaviors. Most studies about eating disorders focus on the female population as women are often the target of critical messaging from the media, which places a lot of value on physical appearances and upholds unrealistic standards for beauty. These beliefs can cause an individual to experience anxiety and poor self-esteem and create a distorted relationship with food.

Alcohol Addiction

Consuming four drinks within two hours is considered binge drinking, but for individuals with BED, getting drunk isn’t necessarily the objective. People with binge eating disorders are unable to control their consumption of food, even when they already feel uncomfortably full. If they take alcohol with their meals, they are likely to also indulge in excessive drink.

In cases like these, alcoholism is almost a result of BED because of the way alcohol affects the human body. The more alcohol an individual consumes, the higher their alcohol tolerance becomes. This means that they will need to consume even more alcohol to feel its effects, creating a vicious cycle that leads to alcohol addiction.

Stimulant Addiction

Some individuals may turn to the use of stimulant drugs in an effort to keep their binge eating under control. These drugs are designed to induce the body to produce more dopamine, creating a sense of heightened alertness and energy. They also have the effect of decreasing appetite and increasing metabolism, which make them especially attractive drugs to people with BED. However, these effects don’t last very long so the individual will have to take the drug more frequently.

Some stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are legal prescription drugs for treating ADHD, but there are also contraband concoctions like Speed. While individuals with BED may be taking these drugs to feel better, these substances can increase anxiety and worsen depressive symptoms.

Opioid Addiction

While any food can be a joy to eat, foods that are high in sugar and fat are especially palatable to humans. This is because, according to a study[2] published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, they trigger the pleasure centers in the brain and increase dopamine levels. However, binge eating is often followed by feelings of shame and guilt, so individuals with BED may turn to the use of opioid-based drugs to achieve the same high. This is because many people with eating disorders also often suffer from body dysmorphia or negative body image and binge eating behavior contributes to unwanted weight gain. This makes using substances like heroin, cocaine, and even prescription pain killers like fentanyl more preferable to eating excessive amounts of food.

There are many links between binge eating disorder and substance addiction, and it is not uncommon for them to occur synchronously. When treating an individual for an eating disorder, it is best to also check for possible drug abuse as this can interfere with the success of their overall treatment.

US National Library of Medicine
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