Addiction is a subject very close to my heart as I am a recovering addict. My journey into recovery began whilst I was a practicing psychologist and I know from this experience how difficult it can be for most people living in Kenya to find the right kinds of treatment, more so the right kind of treatment for food addiction.
I have heard it said along this journey by folk living in the developed world that it is strange to find food addiction in countries where famine and poverty is rampant. That thought got my interest in regard to food addiction as a disease rather than a mere compulsion to eat.
For many years I was treated for compulsive overeating, depression, drug addiction and alcoholism. Diet after diet and numerous weight loss and appetite control techniques were used to try and curb the internal and external imbalance of emotion, mind and body. Also tied to this in equally as many psycho-social therapy sessions were family of origin dynamics and codependency.
Well, I do believe that food addicts display all of the above dysfunctions and co-occurring addictive symptoms. That in itself is a significant factor in the illusion of misdiagnosis and the illusion of identifying the primary illness.
The question bears, why is it, in my experience as a clinician and many of my colleagues too; Is food addiction so hard to treat? Is it that we have not found the right applicable model? Why do food addicts not heal under typically successful rehabilitation systems? Where is the balance between medical pharmacology, physiology and psychological interventions?
It is my belief that food addiction is an illness; hence economic regard may not be an indicator just as body weight is not a primary indicator of food addiction. Many food addicts may appear normal and have a normal BMI.
Again food addiction often begins in infancy, long before cultural and socio-economic impact, genetic factors in the case of Kenyan socio-culture can easily span generations with very different economic status. In my case for example, it is likely that the genetic lineage is maternal, in which case, my mother came from a very different economy.
These are various expressions of food addiction, much like the alcoholic types and even whilst food addicts may express addiction in a range of ways, they also have many similarities to all other addictions; addiction in and of itself has a set of symptoms. Not all food addicts have used drugs and alcohol addictively; but just about all food addicts cannot use mood altering drugs and alcohol normally.
In the wider scope and perhaps outside of addiction; body weight, shape, perception of image, eating behaviour and trends has a large influence on self worth, esteem, love and soundness of mind. I have encountered many addicts in recovery who turn to food particularly flour and sugar as a substitute.
In both cases the effect that confronts eating or lack of has on emotional health is significant. So significant, that individuals have had to be put on anti depressants, mood stabilizers and mild sedatives where as a disciplined change and constitution of their nutrition can create a sense of well-being, joy and fulfillment. Numbing mind and heart is a default response in addicts. How is it that food is able to create this false sense of emotional wellbeing and if so the opposite may be fine, that nutrition can be used effectively in treatment to stabilize moods and addicts from compulsion and starvation.
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