(717)737-9068 Free Consultation * 24 Hour Services Available 

"For appointments in Pennsylvania please click here"
 Table of Contents
 Emotional Problems
  Lack of Confidence
 Eating Disorders
  Binge Eating
  Eating and Weight
  Emotional Eating

  Excess Weight

  Weight Control

  Loved Ones
  Separation / Divorce
  Drug and Alcohol
  Sex / Pornography
  Spending / Shopping
Behavioral Problems
  Adjustment Disorder
  Conduct Disorders
  Explosive Disorder
  Multiple Personality
  Sleep Disorders
 Phobias and Fears
  Fears and Phobias
  Panic Attacks
  Social Phobia
  Performance Anxiety
  List Of Phobias
 Sexual Concerns
  Sexual Concerns (M)
  Sexual Concerns (F)
  Gay and Lesbian
  Gender Identity Issues
  Sexual Orientation
  List of Paraphilias
Helpful Information
  Communication Skills
  Non-Verbal Comm...
  Personal Growth
  Skill Enhancement
Adoption / Infertility
  For Adoptees
  For Adopting Persons
  For Birth Parents
Food Addiction

Food Addiction

Food Addiction

In the U.S. there are over 4 million adults with an addiction to food. Add to that the ever growing number of adolescents with eating problems and the unhealthy views and eating habits of eating shared by so many others, and you have what is obviously a major problem. The most common types of food addiction are binge eating, bulimia, and anorexia.  These food addiction disorders and treatment for them are discussed below.

Understanding Food Addiction

Food addiction is characterized by compulsive eating and an obsession with weight and body image.  Persons with a food addiction display an obsession with, and craving for, food and eating, a preoccupation with finding sources of food associated with pleasure and comfort, a compulsive cycle of eating, and the lack of an ability to stop abusing food.

Signs of a food addiction and compulsive eating include:

• Preoccupation with body weight and food.
• Eating to relieve worry or stress.
• Continuing to eat even after feeling sick from eating too much.
• Becoming anxious while eating.
• Daydreaming or worrying while eating.
• Depression or mood swings
• Eating too fast and overeating.
• Eating everything on the plate.
• Feeling guilty when you eat.
• Eating much more rapidly than normal
• Eating alone due to shame and embarrassment
• Cannot eat one cookie, or any treat that you really like.
• Binging after a diet.
• Awareness that eating patterns are abnormal
• History of weight fluctuations
• Withdrawal from activities because of embarrassment about weight
• History of many different unsuccessful diets

Types of Food Addictions

There are several types of food addiction, each resulting in significant emotional and physical problems.  The three most common food addictions are described below.

Binge Eating Disorder or Compulsive Overeating

An individual suffering from compulsive overeating disorder engages in frequent episodes of uncontrolled eating, or binging, during which they may feel frenzied or out of control. They will eat much more quickly than is normal, and continue to eat even past the point of being uncomfortably full. Binging in this way is generally followed by a period of intense guilt feelings and depression.

Unlike individuals with bulimia, compulsive overeaters do not attempt to compensate for their binging with purging behaviors such as fasting, laxative use or vomiting. Compulsive overeaters will typically eat when they are not hungry, spend excessive amounts of time and thought devoted to food, and secretly plan or fantasize about eating alone. Compulsive overeating almost always leads to weight gain and obesity, but not everyone who is obese is also a compulsive overeater. 

Compulsive eaters are unable to control their food intake and repeatedly attempt to lose weight by dieting. While there may be some initial success at weight loss, the weight is ultimately gained back, plus additional pounds. Fluctuations in weight and medical complications are characteristic of this disorder. Individuals with binge eating disorders often find that their eating or weight interferes with their relationship, their work and their self-esteem. Left untreated, compulsive overeating can lead to serious medical conditions including high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and clinical depression. Additional long-term side effects of the condition also include kidney disease, arthritis, bone deterioration and stroke.

For more information see the website pages on excess weight and eating and weight and emotional eating, and weight control.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is a potentially devastating problem which is characterized by periods of binge eating followed by attempts to prevent weight gain through purging behaviors such as laxative use or vomiting.  For more information visit the page Bulimia Nervosa.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is a progressive and potentially fatal disorder that is characterized by a 15% below normal body weight, an intense fear of fat and repeated claims of feeling fat even when obviously underweight.  Anorexics typically have trouble experiencing feelings or handling stressful situations in their lives. Restricting food becomes a way to numb their thoughts and feelings and establish a sense of power and control. Individuals with anorexia may also engage in other forms of purging behaviors, including vomiting, laxative or diuretic abuse, use of enemas or excessive exercise in order to maintain their low body weight and emotional control.  For more information visit the page Anorexia Nervosa.


There is no known exact cause for food addiction and causation appears to depend on the person and the type of food addiction. There is a significant emotional element to all food addictions.  Most sufferers cope with overwhelming emotions of shame and depression. Many feel guilty that they are "not good enough" and are ashamed of their bodies and weight. Most have very low self esteem. Sufferers also frequently have a constant need for love and validation.

Compulsive overeating normally begins in childhood, when eating patterns are formed. Most compulsive overeaters never learned effective ways to deal with stressful situations, and instead learned to turn to food as a way of blocking out painful emotions. Some compulsive overeaters consciously or unconsciously use excess body fat as a protective layer, particularly those who have been the victims of sexual abuse. They sometimes feel that being fat will make them less attractive, and therefore less likely to be abused further.

Although many sufferers of compulsive overeating try to combat their increasing weight through dieting, this can exacerbate the condition. Dieting can lead to feelings of deprivation, which the compulsive overeater is then driven to block out by further binging. Unless the emotional reasons for binging are resolved, the sufferer frequently becomes locked into an unending cycle of dieting and binging, with the accompanying feelings of guilt, shame, self-loathing and depression that result.

In addition to a significant emotional element, for a food addict, food may have physiological addictive elements as well. In some ways a food addiction can be seen as similar to drug addiction and alcohol addiction. Very often for a food addict, refined sugar, flour and fats become what alcohol is to the alcoholic, or cocaine to the cocaine addict.  When eating food in this group, the addict sets the phenomenon of "craving" into motion.

Like the drug addict, the food addict experiences withdrawal when attempting to cut down on foods that trigger cravings. They can experience both physical and emotional withdrawal such as tremors, cramps, depression, teary periods and self-hatred which leads to self abuse.

Treatment for Food Addiction

Food addictions are treatable with nutritional and medical counseling, individual and group psychotherapy, self- help and spiritual programs such as Overeaters Anonymous and Food Addicts Anonymous, and medication.

Food addiction disorders are behavioral patterns which stem from emotional conflicts that need to be resolved in order for the sufferer to develop a healthy relationship with food. In helping clients, I have found that the treatment for eating problems needs to focus on establishing healthy eating patterns, the reestablishment of a healthy body weight, identifying and treating emotional issues, developing effective coping strategies to assist the client in dealing with stress and anxiety, and providing support and guidance for maintenance and long-term recovery.

Additional Information

For more information about food addiction or other eating problems, please click on the linked websites listed below.

 Overeaters Anonymous
 Psychology Today on obesity

Would You Like Personal Assistance?

If you really want help dealing with your feelings and emotions, changing your behavior, and improving your life and the approach and office hours of typical therapists and counselors do not fit your life style or personal needs, I may have a solution.

By using very flexible office appointments, telephone consultations, email, teleconferences, and the willingness to travel and meet with you personally in your home, office, or other location,  I can be available to help you anytime and anywhere.

Feel free to contact me now for your free initial consultation. Once you become an existing client, you will be given a  pager  number where you can reach me whenever you need.

  Contact Dr. Berger
Help is Available
  Who I Can Help
  How I Can Help
  What You Can Do
  About Dr Berger
What Is a
  Clinical Psychologist
  Educational Psych...
  Forensic Psychologist
  School Psychologist
  Social Worker
  Life Coach
  Personal Coach
  Executive Coach
  Mental Health Prof...
  Pastoral Counselor
Types of Treatment
  Behavioral Therapy
  Cognitive Behavioral
  Gestalt Therapy
  Rational Emotive
  Reality Therapy
  Family Therapy
  Group Therapy
  Intelligence (IQ)
  Rorschach (inkblot)
 Famous Psychologists
  Allport, Gordon
  Beck, Aaron
  Binet, Alfred
  Chomsky, Noam
  Ellis, Albert
  Erikson, Erik
  Erickson, Milton
  Freud, Sigmund
  Fromm, Erich
  Glasser, William
  Harlow, Harry
  Jung, Carl
  Kinsey, Alfred
  Laing, R.D.
  Leary, Timothy
  Lewin, Kurt
  Perls, Fritz
  Maslow, Abraham
  May, Rollo
  Piaget, Jean
  Pavlov, Ivan
  Rogers, Carl
  Satir, Virginia
  Skinner, B. F.
  Wolpe, Joseph
  Psych Associations
Anywhere Anytime
                                    Copyright 2005 Dr Vincent Berger                                     


Psychologists and Psychologist
Psychologists Psychologist
 Psychologists Allentown Pennsylvania Psychologists Hermitage Pennsylvania Psychologists Penn Hills Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Altoona Pennsylvania Psychologists Highspire Pennsylvania Psychologists Philadelphia Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Baldwin Pennsylvania Psychologists Johnstown Pennsylvania Psychologists Phoenixville Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Bethel Park Pennsylvania Psychologists King of Prussia Pennsylvania Psychologists Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Bethlehem Pennsylvania Psychologists Lancaster Pennsylvania Psychologists Plum Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Black Mountain Pennsylvania Psychologists Lansdale Pennsylvania Psychologists Pottstown Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Camp Hill Pennsylvania Psychologists Lebanon Pennsylvania  Psychologists Progress Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Carlisle Pennsylvania Psychologists Lemoyne Pennsylvania Psychologists Radnor Township Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Chambersburg Pennsylvania Psychologists Levittown Pennsylvania Psychologists Reading Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Chester Pennsylvania Psychologists Marysville Pennsylvania Psychologists Ross Township Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Colonial Park Pennsylvania  Psychologists McCandless Pennsylvania Psychologists Rutherford Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Drexel Hill Pennsylvania Psychologists McKeesport Pennsylvania Psychologists Scott Township Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Easton Pennsylvania Psychologists Monroeville Pennsylvania Psychologists Scranton Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Enola Pennsylvania Psychologists Mount Lebanon Pennsylvania Psychologists Shaler Township Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Erie Pennsylvania Psychologists Mountain Top Pennsylvania Psychologists Sharon Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Greensburg Pennsylvania Psychologists Murrysville Pennsylvania Psychologists Springfield Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Hampton Pennsylvania Psychologists New Castle Pennsylvania Psychologists State College Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Hanover Pennsylvania Psychologists Norristown Pennsylvania Psychologists Steelton Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Hazleton Pennsylvania Psychologists Penbrook Pennsylvania Psychologists Upper St Clair Pennsylvania
 Psychologists West Chester Pennsylvania Psychologists Wilkinsburg Pennsylvania Psychologists Willow Grove Pennsylvania
 Psychologists West Mifflin Pennsylvania Psychologists Williamsport Pennsylvania Psychologists York Pennsylvania
 Psychologists Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania  
Psychologists PA
Psychologists Pennsylvania