Substance Dependency

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Although there has been some controversy as to whether anyone can be “addicted to food” (AKA food addict) or manifest the symptoms of addiction with respect to the other eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders – the following is a list of the criteria appearing in the DSM IV (Diagnostic Manual) of the American Psychiatric Association for any and all addictions (dependencies):

  • TOLERANCE
  • WITHDRAWAL
  • MORE FOR LONGER PERIODS THAN INTENDED
  • UNSUCCESSFUL EFFORT TO CUT BACK OR CONTROL
  • SIGNIFICANT TIME TO OBTAIN OR RECOVER FROM EFFECTS
  • DECREASED ACTIVITIES DUE TO DEPENDENCY
  • CONTINUES DESPITE CONSEQUENCES

When applied to alcohol dependency, cocaine, opiates, and an array of the more common chemicals (drugs and substances), there is less confusion as to who meets the criteria for being an “addict”. However, when looking at other disorders such as “process or behavioral addictions” (e.g. compulsive gambling and “sex addiction) there is some debate. Needless to say, the debate becomes even greater when referring to all the forms of disordered eating – ranging from anorexia and bulimia to compulsive overeating.

What is interesting to note is that per the APA’s guidelines, one need only demonstrate 3 of the above criteria in a span of 12 months to meet the criteria for addiction / dependency.

What you might ask yourself, or someone suffering with an eating disorder, is whether the above criteria can be applied to your relationship with food and/or dieting and exercise. When polled, virtually all of the residents at Milestones recognized a minimum of 5 or 6 of the above criteria – more than the minimum 3 required to describe dependency. In addition, those polled varied in “flavor” of disorder – covering the full spectrum of eating disorders.

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