What makes food an addiction?
Are the causes of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating the same as the causes for alcoholism, smoking and other addictions?
Research on eating disorders has shown that there are similarities between many cases of eating disorders and addictive conditions such as alcoholism and drug addiction. The human brain has special reward centers and these are normally activated when a person feels well, takes care of the body, behaves sensibly, is praised, is in love, exercises, etc. It is also possible to stimulate these reward centers by artificial means. Drugs of all kind forbidden and permitted, produce chemical stimulation which is an important part of the cause of addiction. Stimulation also blocks unpleasant feelings and therefore those with eating disorders, as well as those with other addictive disorders, may cause them to block unbearable feelings.
Normal people get their stimulation of the reward center by doing good things. They are stimulated by exercise because it is good for the body to get exercise. They are stimulated by eating, because it is good for the body to get nourishment. They are stimulated by being in love, because it is good for the survival of the human race that people mate. They are stimulated when they have achieved something or when they get appraisal because it is good that people do constructive things.
However, if the reward center is stimulated by drugs, alcohol or abuse of food, they cease to function in the way they should. Abuse is a short cut to a false happiness, a happiness which doesn’t come from doing something good.
Incorrect usage of the reward centers is especially common with people who have a personality requiring a lot of reward effects in order for them to feel well, and also have worry and stress which can be reduced by drugs. There is accordingly a common factor with many types of addiction:
– Alcoholism and drug disorders
– Eating disorders
– Compulsive sex dependence
– Compulsive gambling
– Compulsive exercising
– Self-injury and anorexia nervosa
This means that much of what is known about the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction can be used for eating disorders. The patient’s own ego must be strengthened and taught to refuse the kind of eating pattern which temps with quick artificial solutions.
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