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Food addiction: forms, symptoms and treatment

Food addiction: forms, symptoms and treatment

For a human food is not only a means for satisfying hunger and maintaining the power, but also the pleasure and a communication tool. Collective eating at home or in a restaurant had a good reason – it draws people together and creates the warm and comfort atmosphere of communication. But for some people food becomes a real narcotic, the source of bright emotions and joy, so that they feel great inconvenience without it and suffer from fixed ideas about favorite dishes.

In this case we can talk about food addiction, and there are several forms of it: starting from uncontrolled overeating up to avoiding the food at all. Let us see the main forms of eating disorder.

Gluttony (addiction to taste)

When a man takes food not because he is hungry, but because he is bored, has nothing to do or wants to cheer himself up and forget of the problems, we talk about the most widespread form of food addiction called overeating. In most cases addicted people prefer unhealthy food, full of coloring agents, food additives, sugar and salt. Bright gustatory sensations increase endorphins production and improve the mood, but at the same time they need the increased portions of favorite meals and new dishes with brisk taste characteristics.

Gluttony can be revealed by the next symptoms:

  • Thoughts of the next eating occasion while taking food at present time;
  • Often visits to food shops and stores in order to fill the refrigerator to the utmost;
  • Feeling of dissatisfaction and anxiety, if there are no favorite foodstuffs at home;
  • Eating after the hunger is satisfied;
  • Often bites caused by intention to find something to do;
  • Guilty conscience after each episode of gluttony and wish to stop overeating.

Overeating is a disease of sensitive and tender people, who eat to escape from the problems and get the feeling of security. But food addiction is not a slight malady, as it comes to overweight and later – to fattiness and all associated diseases.

Bulimia (overeating with further self-purification)

The word “bulimia” is of Greek origin, it means “bull hunger”. This form of food addiction is more dangerous, than usual overeating, because people, who suffer from it, vomit what they have just eaten after every episode of gluttony, or take huge doses of laxatives. The reason of such behavior is fear to gain weight, although they have unhealthy and uncontrolled addiction to food. Bulimic people don’t choose some special food they prefer, as their goal is not to enjoy the taste, but fill the stomach to the utmost.

Outwardly the bulimic patients look healthy and have normal weight of the body (although the exceptions do exist), but in the neglected stages of illness they acquire dry skin, fragility of hair and dental decay. Constant vomiting causes diseases of esophagus and other organs of gastrointestinal tract. The symptoms of bulimia are very typical and easy to make a diagnosis:

  • Casual eating of big amounts of food within a short period of time. The taste of food and even its freshness don’t matter.
  • Food refusal or eating small doses of it in public. Intention to eat alone;
  • Using inadequate methods for deliverance from overeating consequences;
  • Profound concern of the weight, body shapes and appearance. Constant discussions of diets, healthy food and methods of weight loss.

Treatment for bulimia is individual for every single patient. On the average it takes 15-20 sessions of psychotherapy twice a week. First the psychologist reveals the reasons, which have led to bulimia. Drawing on them, the doctor examines the disease process and gives an advice of how to fight its bouts.

The main aspect of bulimia therapy is a cognitive-behavioral psychology, helping to correct the patient’s attitude to himself and the world around. The method allows to raise self-esteem of the patient and to deliver him from obsessive thoughts about eating. The final stage of treatment is a group therapy, where the patients share the stories of their illness and support each other in fight against bulimia.

Sometimes the treatment takes place at hospital: the indications for hospitalization are diseases appeared after forced self-purification. When the patient becomes stable, psychotherapy can be used as well.

Anorexia (voluntary food refusal)

Anorexia in common is a psychical disorder accompanied by considerably decreased sensation of appetite. Being a variety of food addiction, anorexia nervosa manifests itself by strong restriction in food or refusal from food in order to lose weight. The person doesn’t feel aversion to food in that case, he can even enjoy eating, but the anxiety about his weight doesn’t allow him to eat normally.

Anorexia is characterized by distorted perception of own body. The patients with lack of body weight still feel themselves fat and try to lose weight to minimum (turn into rattlebones). 95 percent of patients with anorexia are girls and women. This fact can be explained by scrupulous attitude of females to own weight and look (as opposed to men).

Symptoms of anorexia appear little by little, and any particular case has a psychical background. The person doesn’t like his appearance; he has fixed ideas of how to make his body perfect. The patient, suffering from anorexia, can be distinguished by the following indications:

  • Swift weight loss against a backdrop of severe restrictions in food and exhaustible physical activity. The main symptom here is loss in weight by 20-30 percent comparing to the initial. Sometimes the weight loss can reach 50 percent.
  • Using radical and unnatural methods of losing weight, which are partly typical for bulimia, such as induced vomiting, taking diuretics, excessive coffee drinking.
  • Thoughts of food, talking about weight, diet and dietary regime.
  • Interest to cooking, learning new recipes. By that the patient doesn’t eat what he cooks at all.
  • Negative physiological presentations – low blood pressure, absence of subcutaneous fat, aversion to food, weakness, convulsions, flabbiness and cyanosis of the skin, atrophy and visceral ptosis are symptoms of the last stage of anorexia.

Anorexia nervosa is the most dangerous kind of eating disorder, which in some cases leads to lethal outcome due to inanition of the body. The treatment is not always successful; the disease often relapses. For recovery the patient must receive a qualified medical help in time.

Anorexia therapy is provided in hospital environment and ordered bed rest. The main task of the treatment is to normalize the patient’s weight and functions of the body. The patient receives small daily ration of food, his weight is controlled. To whet his appetite the injections of insulin, often together with 40 percent solution of glucose, can be also prescribed.

Like other eating disorders, the treatment for anorexia includes sessions of psychotherapy, aimed at correction of patient’s self-perception as well as perception of his personality. Sometimes hypnosis and sedatives are also prescribed and used for the treatment in question.




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