Is Overeating an Addiction?

People dealing with obesity can now benefit from bariatric surgery. This specialized procedure is only offered for those patients who are morbidly obese, and need to have this surgery to avoid life-threatening complications.  Not all overweight people can choose to have this surgery though since it is a major procedure that presents significant risks and side effects. The procedure would also require  permanent changes in a person’s lifestyle. 


For a number of weight loss surgery patients who have undergone bariatric or any other weight loss surgery, giving up food may mean drinking alcohol, or even having compulsive shopping. Researchers call this behavioral shift an “addiction transfer”, which means transferring one compulsive act (in their case overeating) and replacing it with another in order to numb emotions or fill an inner void. Mental health experts said that since these bariatric procedures have been more common nowadays, they are seeing an increase in cases of alcoholism, obsessive shopping, gambling, and promiscuity. They also noted that the problem with people who had surgery has not been attending therapy to address their issues behind their eating disorders. Most of them are emotional eaters, and when it has been taken away, they will be left with the thought of what to do with their emotions. 


Cases have been reviewed with two post-surgery patients that went on air with Oprah Winfrey regarding their state. One woman became an alcoholic two years after her operation. With binge eating gone as a coping mechanism, she began drinking up to 10 martinis a day to soothe stress. Even if she lost 150 pounds, the negative feelings that added to her obesity still lurked. Another woman who lost 200 pounds because of surgery revealed that she has been having affairs as a way to distract herself from her unhappy marriage. This can trigger depression that some post-operative patients try to “self-medicate” with alcohol, shopping, or smoking cigarettes.  


A psychologist further stated that another paradox for this issue would be that the positive step of dropping pounds after surgery can be stressful in itself. He said that dynamics can change after one starts to reduce weight and puts the next foot forward. Relationships can shift as one puts balance in his life, and the lifestyle one would have requires adjustment.


Experts emphasize that bariatric surgery does not cause addiction. This kind of surgery has been around for 30 years, and there is no sufficient data linking surgery and addiction in a conclusive manner.  Mental health workers suggest that after surgery, patients should attend a support group or go into therapy sessions. A post-surgery patient shares that after losing 200 pounds from his operation last April, he started dealing with anxiety issues for about two months. But with therapy and medications, he felt a lot better. 


If anyone is interested in having any kind of weight loss surgery, make sure to know more information than just the basics. Take time to evaluate one’s physical and emotional state before having an operation. After surgery, take time to relax and enrol oneself in therapy sessions or counseling groups to be able to take away the remaining negative thoughts that might resurface in the future.




The Lyfe Magazine website cannot and does not contain medical or health advice. The information contained on our site is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice.

Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of medical or health advice. The use or reliance of any information contained on this site, or our mobile application is solely at your own risk.