Friday, June 03, 2011

Disordered Eating of Another Kind

By Kimberly Dennis, M.D.
Medical Director of Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

I am sure most of us at one time or another has felt guilty for going back for a second or third serving of food, whether or not we are still hungry. During a holiday party or special occasion, it's common to "overindulge." It is probably the most socially-sanctioned way to escape or medicate the tensions that arise during hectic holiday times at family gatherings. It also happens to be one of the least acknowledged ways to stuff intense emotions that might otherwise surface in such settings. This speaks to the depth of denial that we have on a societal level about how people "use" food—the same denial that exists as a major symptom in other addictions to a lesser extent.

Millions of Americans engage in overeating on a daily basis and have a relationship with food that is shrouded in secrecy and shame. While most people identify anorexia or bulimia as eating disorders, the most common eating disorder is the least talked about--binge eating or compulsive overeating. Officially referred to by the medical community as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (ED-NOS, which includes binge eating disorder), it is the most common eating disorder in the United States, affecting more than 20 million Americans.

Millions of individuals use food as a substance in the same way that others with the disease of addiction use alcohol or drugs. When some people repeatedly consume large amounts of food, their brains receive a relaxed or calming feeling similar to the feeling alcoholics or substance abusers receive when they use. This is related to a similar reaction in the brain's reward circuitry. For some people it's brought on by using food and for others it's alcohol, work, sex, self-injury, gambling, drugs, and/or combinations of any of the above...finish article

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