When Eating Becomes a Problem
An eating disorder might seem humorous. Have you ever joked that you could “eat everything on this table?” For some people, though, overeating is no laughing matter. Overeating and binge eating disorders are complex illnesses that can be life-threatening. As a Santa Barbara psychologist, I have seen how they can completely overwhelm patients’ lives and wreak havoc on their bodies.
Although both issues are generally labeled as eating disorders, there are some differences between insatiable hunger and binge eating disorder. With insatiable hunger, patients feel like they are always hungry, no matter how recently or how much food they have eaten. Although there may be some type of physical cause for this feeling, it can also stem from anxiety. It could be based on feelings of low self-esteem, or might represent insatiable needs which were not met by parents or significant others. Therapy for anxiety can often uncover these underlying causes and alleviate the feeling of continual hunger.
According to The Something Fishy Website on Eating Disorders, a binge eating disorder usually involves periodic occasions where sufferers will go on an eating binge and consume a large quantity of food in a short period of time. They feel like they have no control over their actions. Sufferers continue taking in food until they are uncomfortably full, and do not take any voluntary steps to purge the food from their bodies. Binge eating may be used as a means of hiding from emotions, filling a void inside, or coping with stresses and problems. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), it can manifest with a sense of depression about the overall situation and loss of control. Depression counseling may be one step in understanding why these patients feel so sad that they look to unhealthy eating habits for comfort.
In either case, long-term afflictions with the disorder can lead to serious health issues. The patient will likely be overweight and may suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, and other diseases associated with overeating. For these sufferers, it is not as simple as going on a diet or working with a nutritionist to learn about healthy eating habits. They may need to see a psychologist for depression in order to work through their feelings of despair and to understand the unhealthy role food is playing in their lives.
Understanding Insatiable Hunger and Binge Eating Disorder
It can be difficult to accept the fact that you no longer have a healthy relationship with food. You may try to forget any episodes of unhealthy eating, and may attempt to hide any evidence. You may push away others who try to show concern or offer help. The first step in overcoming any type of disorder is realizing that you are acting in a way that is not healthy for your mind or your body. Some questions which might help determine if you or someone you love are dealing with insatiable hunger or a binge eating disorder include:
- Do you recognize when you are full and are you capable of stopping eating?
- Do you feel like you are always hungry, even after a physician has ruled out any possible medical causes?
- Do you often eat more in comparison to others at the same meal?
- Do you try to hide your eating, or evidence of how much you have eaten?
- What are your eating habits like now compared to what they were a year or two ago?
- How much food do you eat in a typical day?
- Have your sleep patterns been interrupted by your eating habits?
- How quickly do you eat?
- How do you feel emotionally about the way you eat?
- Have your eating habits affected your relationships with others?
- To what extent is your life controlled by your eating?
- Do you have secret “stashes” of food in various locations?
Your answers to these questions don’t necessarily indicate that you have an eating disorder, but they provide helpful guidelines. If you think there is cause for concern, it is always best to check with a medical doctor and a Santa Barbara therapist to confirm your suspicions.
Overcoming an Insatiable Hunger or Binge Eating Disorder
The first thing to understand if you think you are dealing with an eating disorder is that you are not alone. There are many people in situations similar to yours, many people who can help you, and many people that love you. When you come to me for help with managing anxiety and/or your eating disorder I spend time getting to know you so we can explore the emotional roots of your condition together.
In addition to psychotherapy, I may recommend a consultation with your medical doctor to discuss antidepressants or other medication to help you deal with the emotional turmoil you are experiencing. It may also be helpful to seek alternative therapies to relieve stress and tension. The Deep Tissue Massage Center specializes in Therapeutic Deep Tissue Massage which promotes full body stress relief, healthy function of muscle tissues, and speeds recovery. Points of Health Acupuncture helps you rejuvenate, relax, balance, and heal. Together we’ll help you regain control of your life.
If you feel you are being controlled by insatiable hunger or a binge eating disorder, contact my office immediately to set up a session, and let me help you find a path to a better life.
Dr. Adina McGarr-Knabke
The Santa Barbara Therapist
About MySantaBarbaraTherapy.com: If you feel you need therapy for depression to help you overcome an insatiable hunger or binge eating disorder, consider setting an appointment with Dr. Adina McGarr-Knabke, the Santa Barbara Therapist. The doctor provides counseling for anxiety to help patients deal with many types of eating disorders. The office, which is located at 1187 Coast Village Rd., Suite 10P in Santa Barbara, also provides alcoholism and addiction treatment services. Visit the website at https://www.mysantabarbaratherapy.com to find links for more information regarding binge eating. “Like” the Facebook page to receive updates, tips, and information on managing anxiety and sustaining good mental health. Appointments to see the psychologist for anxiety and other mental issues may be made online or by calling 818-518-6775.
What you need to know about Food Addiction
I provide therapy to patients who are dealing with eating disorders such as Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating Disorder, as well as disordered eating styles that do not meet criteria for an eating disorder. These are serious conditions that wreak havoc on patients by affecting their sense of self, their health, their relationships, and their well being. All of which ultimately diminish one’s ability to participate fully in daily activities.
After a general medical condition has been ruled out, I work with patients in therapy to determine the underlying psychological and emotional causes for their condition. In addition to the underlying factors contributing to one’s eating disorder, they also serve as powerful coping mechanisms. We associate food with memories, use it to make ourselves feel happy when we are sad, rely on it as a way of showing love for our families, and sometimes even punish ourselves with it. My goal is to help patients understand why they interact with food the way they do, so that we can work together to build a life that doesn’t revolve around food.
Understanding Food Addiction
It can be helpful to understand why food is so addictive in the first place. Research has shown that the same pleasure and reward centers of the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs like heroin and cocaine are also activated by food.
Highly palatable foods that are rich in sugar, fat, and salt trigger the release of brain chemicals, like dopamine, that just make you feel good. For some individuals, the neurochemical structure of their brains may predispose them to either being more sensitive to the chemicals released when eating highly palatable foods or less responsive, meaning it takes eating more of the food to elicit the same pleasure response. Over time, this can override normal feelings of satisfaction, induce cravings, and compel you to eat, even if you’re not hungry. Tolerance can build and despite more food being consumed, the same pleasurable effect is harder to achieve. Once food addiction occurs, eating becomes the primary source of pleasure and reward and the individual is less motivated to engage in other activities that were once appealing.
Signs of Food Addiction
It may be difficult to admit to yourself that you have a food addiction, and it can also be hard to identify in others, as there is a significant amount of shame and secrecy around food addiction. Below are some questions that may help identify in an addiction is present.
- Does it often feel like you are eating more than you planned, especially when it comes to certain foods?
- Do you feel the need to continue eating those foods, even though you are not hungry any longer?
- How often do you eat so much that you become ill?
- If a certain type of food is not available, what actions do you take?
- Is eating interfering with your ability to work or interact with others?
- Are you embarrassed by how much you eat around others?
- Do you eat in secrecy?
- If you try to cut down, do you experience anxiety, agitation, or any other physical symptoms?
- Have your eating habits caused you to experience depression, self-hatred, or guilt?
- Does it feel like to need to eat more and more just to feel any pleasure at all?
Food addiction may not look the same for everyone. These questions don’t necessarily indicate that you have or don’t have an addiction, but they can be helpful guidelines. If you think there is cause for concern it is always best to check with a medical doctor and a mental health professional.
Getting Help for a Food Addiction
Once a person becomes addicted to food, it is difficult to stop, despite any rational thinking or negative consequences that occur. It may require medical care, treatment for depression, nutritional counseling and physical training combined. Here are a few organizations which can provide further insights into the causes, symptoms, and treatments for food addictions:
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD): This non-profit organization has been dedicated to the prevention and alleviation of eating disorders since 1976. ANAD advocates for the development of healthy attitudes, bodies, and behaviors. The organization also promotes eating disorder awareness, prevention and recovery through supporting, educating, and connecting individuals, families and professionals.
- National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA): NEDA was formed in 2001 through the merger of two groups – Eating Disorders Awareness & Prevention (EDAP) and the American Anorexia Bulimia Association (AABA). NEDA believes we can confront eating disorders with increased awareness, early intervention and improved access to treatment. The non-profit provides programs and services to give families the support they need to find answers for these life-threatening illnesses.
- The Something Fishy Website on Eating Disorders: This website has been raising awareness and providing support to people with eating disorders and their loved ones since 1995. They are determined to remind every sufferer that they are not alone, and that complete recovery is possible.
If you or a loved one is affected by a food addiction or an eating disorder, contact my office immediately to set up a session, and let me help you find a path to a better life.
Dr. Adina McGarr-Knabke
The Santa Barbara Therapist
About MySantaBarbaraTherapy.com: Known as The Santa Barbara Therapist, Dr. Adina McGarr-Knabke works with clients who have eating disorders, provides therapy for anxiety, and offers depression counseling as well as alcoholism and addiction treatment services. Her office is located at 1187 Coast Village Rd., Suite 10P in Santa Barbara. Visit the website at https://www.mysantabarbaratherapy.com to download a complimentary PDF, the “Top 10 Ways to Cope With Depression and Anxiety.” “Like” the Facebook page to receive updates, tips, and information on sustaining good mental health. Appointments may be made online or by calling 818-518-6775.
Excessive carbohydrate consumption causes the insulin level in the blood to increase, which reduces the blood sugar level. Research suggests that a decrease in blood sugar stimulates hunger and thus there is an intense desire to eat more food. Through functional magnetic resonance imaging, researchers observed intense activation of the nucleus accumbens (a critical brain region involved with addictive behaviors) after participants consumed a carbohydrate rich food with a high glycemic index. Chronic, excessive consumption of the latter food type may trigger the reward and addiction regions of the brain leading to food cravings.
Binge Eating Disorder is characterized as recurrent episodes of binge eating that, on average, occur at least 2 days a week for 6 months. Persons with binge eating disorder feel the compulsion to eat large amounts of food and often feel out of control to stop. Even when very full, these individuals will continue to eat till to the point of nausea and extreme gastrointestinal distress.
Most people with this eating disorder are overweight and a great number of them are obese, as the compensatory behaviors seen in bulimia (i.e. laxative abuse, vomiting, etc.) are not present in binge eating disorder. Similar to other eating disorders, shame, isolation, and depression often plague the individual. (more…)