Is Binge Eating the Same as a Food Addiction?

Binge eating is a disorder which is characterized by overeating on a consistent basis and results in loss of control over food. A person with this disorder does not purge food and can result in weight gain or obesity over time. People who binge eat may experience body image, weight and shape issues and regret overeating but be unable to stop the behavior. Learn more about binge eating, whether it is considered an addiction and how to seek treatment.



Some of the signs a person may struggle with binge eating can include:

  • Secretive eating habits
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Unable to control eating
  • Feeling ashamed or disgusted by eating behavior
  • Pattern of frequent, recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food in a short period of time



Binge eating often occurs because a person experiences psychological stress (anxiety, depression, personality disorders) which co-exist along with overeating. Doctors work to treat underlying issues using cognitive behavioral therapy in an individual or group environment before tackling the eating issue at hand. Medications such antidepressants or appetite suppressants can be prescribed to help an individual in treatment.


Addiction or Not

Whether a person binges on alcohol or food makes no difference as the two are closely associated with one another. Binge eating is not categorized in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) but causes serious problems for many people. The disorder causes people to eat more food than is needed, not to satisfy hunger, but to meet an unmet emotional, psychological or spiritual need. A doctor or psychologist who specializes in eating disorders and addiction can provide support towards recovery.


Food addiction refers to a biochemical dependency on food which arise from feelings of physical craving, mental obsession or distortion of basic instincts to eat when hungry. Until recently, little was understood about food addiction on a biochemical level. Genetic science and advances in brain research provide some answers to the obesity epidemic with an abundance of studies into food addiction. Compulsive overeating, on the other hand, is categorized differently than food addiction as it stems from unresolved trauma and family dysfunction in addition to a lack of behavioral skills to deal with difficult emotions (which leads to overeating).


Although food addiction and binge eating are looked at differently, recovery focuses on the same principles to guide individuals towards a healthy, long term outlook on life which revolves around healthy eating habits and positive psychological well being. Treatment options should be considered with professionals who deal specifically with either food addiction or binge eating disorders and provide the necessary aftercare support.


The Villa understands addiction and mental health go hand in hand. We are here for you every step of the way from assessment to recovery. Call us to find out how we can support your journey to recovery from food addiction or an eating disorder.