Compulsive overeating as an addiction disorder. A review of theory and evidence

Appetite. 2009 Aug;53(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2009.05.018. Epub 2009 Jun 12.


In this paper we argue that compulsive overeating has compelling similarities to conventional drug addiction. Our case is based on their comparable clinical features, the biological mechanisms they have in common, and on evidence that the two disorders have a shared diathesis. In making the argument for overeating as an addictive behaviour, it is clearly not appropriate to include all cases of excessive food consumption in this taxon. Nor are we claiming that obesity and addiction are one and the same. However, it is proposed that Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a phenotype particularly well-suited to such a conceptualization, and that sound clinical and scientific evidence exists to support this viewpoint. We have provided some recommendations for treatment modifications that recognize the similarities between treating drug dependence and compulsive overeating.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive* / history
  • Behavior, Addictive* / therapy
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Bulimia Nervosa / therapy
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Food
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia* / therapy
  • Impulsive Behavior
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology
  • Obesity
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / therapy


  • Neurotransmitter Agents