Hooked on Cheese?

The Physicians Committee

Hooked on Cheese?

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In its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition, the American Psychiatric Association lists a broad range of substance use disorders, including problems with opiates, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, other recreational drugs, and gambling.[i]

For a diagnosis of Opioid Use Disorder, you need to meet at least two criteria from a list that includes the following signs, among others:

  • Taking in larger amounts than intended.
  • Persistent desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control use.
  • Craving or strong desire for the substance.
  • Continued use despite having a problem that has been caused or exacerbated by the substance.

Many people feel they are addicted to foods—chocolate, sugar, or just eating in general—and some psychiatrists have written about the phenomenon.[ii] Although some health professionals are reluctant to suggest that being hooked on foods is similar to being hooked on drugs, many people who have food-related problems say that it really does feel very much like any other addiction.

If you would like to differentiate between liking something and being hooked on it, try these three questions:  

  1. Do you have it every day, and especially at about the same time of day?
  2. Do you crave it and/or miss it when it’s gone?
  3. Are you paying a price for it, especially with regard to your health?

Whether you’re hooked and how much harm it may be causing—that’s for you to decide. The good news is that it is easy to find delightful substitutes for unhealthful foods.

[i] American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.

[ii] Hetherington MM, MacDiarmid JI. "Chocolate addiction": a preliminary study of its description and its relationship to problem eating. Appetite. 1993 Dec;21(3):233-46.