Food addiction, which is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), can be similar to other addictions and often requires similar treatments and support to overcome.
Fortunately, several programs and therapies may provide treatment.
This article lists the 4 most common food addiction treatment options.
1. 12-step programs
One way to address food addiction is to find a good 12-step program.
These are almost identical to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) — except the substance of addiction is different.
In a 12-step program, people attend meetings with others who also struggle with food addiction. Eventually, they get a sponsor to help them develop a dietary regimen.
Social support can make a big impact when dealing with food addiction. Finding people who share similar experiences and are willing to help can be beneficial to recovery.
In addition, 12-step programs are free and usually available worldwide.
There are several different programs to choose from.
Overeaters Anonymous (OA) is the largest and most popular option, with regular meetings across the world.
Greysheeters Anonymous (GSA) is similar to OA, except they provide a meal plan that involves weighing and measuring three meals per day. While they’re not as widespread as OA, they offer phone and Skype meetings.
These groups are designed to provide a welcoming, nonjudgmental space.
SUMMARY Twelve-step programs provide access to peers and mentors who can help you overcome food addiction. These programs are available worldwide.
2. Cognitive behavioral therapy
These conditions share many of the same symptoms as food addiction.
When looking for a psychologist, ask to be referred to someone who has experience with food addiction or related eating disorders.
SUMMARY Seeing a psychologist who specializes in eating disorders or food addiction can help you overcome food addiction. Additionally, CBT has been proven effective in some cases.
3. Commercial treatment programs
Twelve-step programs are usually free, but several commercial treatment programs also offer effective treatments for feeding and eating disorders.
Major ones include:
- ACORN: They offer several treatment options, mostly in the United States.
- Milestones in Recovery: Located in Florida, they offer long-term treatment for food addiction.
- COR Retreat: Located in Minnesota, they offer a 5-day program.
- The Turning Point: Based in Florida, they have options for several feeding and eating disorders.
- Shades of Hope: Located in Texas, they offer both 6- and 42-day programs.
- PROMIS: Based in the UK, they offer treatment for various feeding and eating disorders.
- Bittens Addiction: They offer various options for those with feeding and eating disorders in Sweden.
This webpage lists numerous individual health professionals across the globe who have experience treating food addiction.
SUMMARY Commercial treatment programs for food addiction are available throughout the world.
4. Psychiatrists and drug therapy
While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any drugs for the treatment of food addiction, medication is another option to consider.
That said, medications are not guaranteed to work for feeding and eating disorders and tend to have side effects.
One drug to consider is approved by the FDA to aid weight loss and contains bupropion and naltrexone. It’s marketed under the brand name Contrave in the United States and Mysimba in Europe.
This drug directly targets some of the brain pathways involved in the addictive nature of food. Studies suggest that it may be effective, especially when combined with healthy lifestyle changes (
Antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications do not cure food addiction, but they may be a useful tool to help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. This can allow a person to focus on recovering from a feeding or eating disorder.
A psychiatrist can explain the different options available and make a recommendation based on an individual’s circumstance or specific treatment plan.
SUMMARY Consider seeing a psychiatrist to discuss other treatment options, including medications. Various drugs and mental health treatments may help with overcoming food addiction.
The bottom line
Food addiction is a mental health issue in which a person becomes addicted to food, especially processed junk foods.
Because food addiction does not resolve on its own, it’s best to pursue a treatment option to live healthfully.
Editor’s note: This piece was originally reported on January 14, 2019. Its current publication date reflects an update, which includes a medical review by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD.