Food addiction
If a person suspects that he or she or a loved one has food addiction, it is important to remember that the condition is treatable and call the professional as soon as possible.


What is Food Addiction?

The idea that someone can be addicted to food has recently gained increasing support. Brain scans show that the brain's pleasure center is affected by food addiction as with any other addiction. The type of addictive foods usually contain:

  1. sugar
  2. know
  3. salt



Over-eating is a diagnosable medical condition, with a list of symptoms that need to be addressed before a specialist can diagnose it.

The following symptoms are indicative, based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM – 5), which is widely accepted as the most authoritative source worldwide. Please note Please note that an official diagnosis may only be made by a qualified person:

To be diagnosable, one or both of the following two symptoms must occur, for a period of at least six months:

  1. Constantly eating, even if the person is satisfied
  2. Inability to stop eating or to control what is consumed.
  3. Storing food to eat at a later stage when the person is alone.
  4. Eat normally in social situations, but over-eat in isolation
  5. Feelings of stress and anxiety that are only relieved by over-eating episodes.
  6. Feelings of numbness or loss of sensation during over-eating episode.
  7. Never experience satiety or a feeling of satisfaction, regardless of the amount of food consumed.



  1. Why is treatment necessary for food addiction?
    Food addiction can pose serious physical and health risks, and in some cases even lead to the death of individuals. Professional support by psychologists, psychiatrists and dietitians is usually the most effective way to treat food addiction. A treatment plan touches on underlying aspects associated with destructive eating patterns. It's important to look at emotional triggers. Healthy coping mechanisms can be put in place by treatment.
  2. Who can diagnose me or a loved one?
    Because food addiction is so complex, we would recommend that you be tested and diagnosed only by a general practitioner, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. They are trained to distinguish between different disorders.
  3. What role does a psychologist play in my treatment?
    A psychologist can diagnose food addiction and, in conjunction with other medical professionals, treat psychotherapeutic. This means he or she can help you understand what your diagnosis is, how to live with it, and how to apply a strategy that can lead to behavioral change. A psychologist in South Africa may not prescribe medication and usually works with a psychiatrist in a team.



If a loved one is diagnosed with addiction, your support and motivation can play a very important role in accepting and managing their diagnosis. Here are guidelines on how to assist an individual:

  1. Be patient. People who are under the onslaught of an addiction do not always have the ability to say how they feel or what they are experiencing. Give them a chance to get used to the diagnosis first, and gradually work out an actual plan to manage their lives in the future.
  2. Be informed about addiction. The more you and your loved one, family member or colleague know about the disease, the more you can work together on a plan to support the person and manage the disease.
  3. Ask what your loved one expects of you. One can easily think you know what is best for another person, but the easiest is to ask how he or she wants you to act
  4. Listen to him or her and do not constantly give advice or try to reason with logic. It is important that the person takes responsibility for the addiction and the effect it will have on his or her life. When someone makes choices on behalf of someone else, it may cause the person to become dependent on you and then not want to fight the addiction yourself. It is not your addiction, but your loved one's. Listening is a wonderful way to support your loved one.
  5. Get to know the signs and symptoms so you can act early. Everyone's symptoms of addiction do not manifest in the same way, so it is very important to understand how the person manifests in your life's symptoms. For example, when your loved one's mood suddenly changes, you can start taking measures as long as possible.
  6. Participate in physical activities with the individual. It is not a cliché that regular exercise helps people with psychological diagnoses. Exercise relieves tension and anxiety, and aids in the production of low-mood transmitters. So regular exercise is actually a successful antidepressant.
  7. Encourage a healthy eating and sleeping pattern. An established routine not only helps the person manage their addiction, but also helps to see signs / symptoms early.
  8. Take a good look at yourself! Remember, a person with an addiction can also negatively impact you by involving you in their addiction. Living with a person treated for addiction can feel frustrating, exhausting and sometimes chaotic. Make time for yourself too.


If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, we suggest the following options:
  1. call your GP (if available);
  2. go to your nearest hospital emergency room;
  3. call one of the following emergency numbers: SADAG (the South African Depression and Anxiety Group) 24-hour helpline: 0800 456 789 or suicide crisis line: 0800 567 567; or
  4. contact Wie is ek?