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Food Addiction Counseling

To treat food addiction, psychological counseling is the most effective method. Outpatient therapy is recommended and there are several treatments available to manage symptoms and support the recovery process. These include support groups, therapies, and nutritional counseling.

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Strategies for Conquering Food Addiction

Like substance abuse treatment, counseling has long been the best and first treatment for behavioral addictions like food addiction.

Inpatient rehab is rarely used for food addiction, so outpatient options like counseling are more common.

Through behavioral therapies, support groups, and nutritional counseling to improve overall wellness, addicts can learn how to improve the symptoms of food addiction and live whole, happy lives in recovery.

Who Should Consider Food Addiction Counseling?

Food addicts often have incredibly harmful or toxic relationships with food and eating.

Anyone experiencing signs of food addiction or struggling with addictive behaviors towards highly palatable foods high in sugar, fat, and salt should consider food addiction counseling.

Because the side effects associated with food addiction can have life-threatening consequences, waiting until you or a loved one hits “rock bottom” isn’t a good idea.

Counseling is a great way to begin addressing problems related to food addiction and learning skills to avoid triggers in the future.

Common signs of food addiction include:

  • Extreme weight gain or weight loss
  • Overeating certain foods even when full
  • Experiencing abnormal food cravings
  • Needing larger amounts of food to achieve the same pleasurable feeling
  • Eating to the point of feeling ill
  • Going to extreme measures to obtain certain types of food
  • Continuing to overeat certain foods despite negative consequences
  • Having a hard time cutting down on specific types of foods
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not eating trigger foods
  • Poor performance at work or school due to food and overeating
  • Avoiding social outings to eat certain foods or from fear those foods will be present
  • Worrying about when you’ll next eat your trigger food
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Types of Counseling for Treating Food Addiction

Each food addict has their own reasons for turning to food for comfort, happiness, or stress relief. With such unique experiences and learning styles, people will need different therapy styles to begin their journey to recovery.

Some therapies are more effective than others for food addiction and compulsive overeating. If you’re unsure what therapy you need, speak with your therapist or addiction specialist to determine which therapy best suits your needs.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is the most common therapy used for addiction treatment, whether drug or food addiction. CBT works by helping patients learn to identify thoughts and feelings that trigger self-destructive or addictive behaviors.

CBT aims to show patients how to replace these negative thoughts or behaviors with more positive and productive ones.

CBT also typically focuses more on moderation than abstinence from foods. This balanced approach is also more reasonable, as the patient can’t stop eating altogether.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Originally developed as a treatment for borderline personality disorder, DBT has also proved effective in treating food addiction.

DBT works by helping patients learn to tolerate stress, improve their relationships, and regulate intense emotions.

Although based originally on CBT, DBT differs by focusing more on changing behavior than changing thought patterns. Because eating food is often a stress response for many people with food addiction, DBT can help addicts change their behavior in response to stressors.

Nutritional Counseling

Unlike other behavioral addictions like gambling or porn, food addicts can’t stop eating all food during treatment. Nutritional counseling typically includes working with a nutritionist or dietitian to build better eating habits and a customized diet that won’t trigger overeating.

Nutritional counseling can also help patients handle addictive cravings with more healthy options and address any nutrient deficiencies present due to restrictive overeating of low-nutrient, highly palatable foods.

12-Step Recovery Programs

Popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), 12-step recovery programs have helped many people with food addiction recovery through peer-led meetings where people share their experiences as food addicts.

Food Addicts Anonymous (FAA) is a 12-step program for food addiction, as well as Overeaters Anonymous and Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous.

Although 12-step programs typically encourage the belief in a higher power or deity, not all 12-step programs require it.

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Benefits of Food Addiction Counseling

Recovery from food addiction can be difficult, especially for addicts to achieve independently.

Although there is no official diagnosis in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses, fifth edition) for food addiction, the condition is commonly diagnosed and treated daily.

Inpatient rehab is seldom needed in cases of food addiction unless other substances are also being abused or the individual is a danger to themselves or others. In most cases, psychotherapy and support or self-help groups are the best treatment options for food addiction.

Benefits of food addiction counseling include:

  • Identify thoughts or behaviors that lead to addictive eating patterns
  • Improve low self-esteem and body image issues common with food addiction
  • Develop strategies to cope with food addiction triggers and avoid relapse
  • Learn more about nutrition, obesity, and healthy ways to think about food
  • Treat co-occurring illnesses that often accompany food addiction, like ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, or impulse control disorders.
  • Treat co-occurring eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.

How to Find a Counselor for Food Addiction Treatment

Whether it’s the stigma that counseling is a last resort or simply not knowing how to find a therapist, many food addicts feel overwhelmed at the prospect of finding food addiction counseling.

Thankfully, the mentality towards therapy is improving, and so are the therapy options being offered.

If you’re trying to find a counselor for food addiction treatment, here are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Training and experience: Most therapists have a specialization or experience with specific topics, so look for professionals that have experience with behavioral addictions, eating disorders, and any co-occurring disorders.
  • Comfort: Feeling uncomfortable or not vibing with a therapist is usually the biggest reason people stop attending therapy. Finding a therapist that makes you feel comfortable and supported will make you more likely to feel safe opening up with them and fully commit to food addiction treatment.
  • Price per visit: Don’t be afraid to ask for the price of sessions, as rates can vary between different therapists and offices. If you or a loved one have insurance, check with the insurance carrier to see if counseling for food addiction is covered. You can also if low-cost community resources are available if the price of counseling stops you from attending.
  • Flexible appointment times: Having appointments that fit your schedule is another thing to look for when considering therapy for food addiction. If sessions are well-timed and fit conveniently into your daily life, you’ll be more likely to attend.
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Find a Food Addiction Counselor or Program

Finding a food addiction counselor or program to join may feel overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start. If you or a loved one is ready to enter counseling for food addiction, you have several places you can start.

You can begin by speaking with your doctor about your eating behaviors and getting a therapist or treatment center referral.

If you’re interested in joining a 12-step recovery program, here are the most common 12-step programs for food addiction:

If you’re unsure where to begin or don’t have a doctor, you can also use the online treatment locator SAMSHA offers or call 1-800-662-4357 (HELP) to learn what treatment options are near you.

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FAQs on Food Addiction Counseling

Is there a 12-step program for food addiction?

Yes. Food Addicts Anonymous (FAA), Overeaters Anonymous, and Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous are the most common 12-step programs offered for food addiction recovery.

What type of therapy is used for food addiction?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) are the two most common therapies for treating food addiction. Both therapies can help patients spot negative thoughts or behavioral patterns that trigger food addiction.

Nutritional counseling can help patients with food addiction understand how to avoid the junk foods that cause compulsive over-eating and develop a healthy, more nutritional diet.

For individuals that prefer self-help or support groups, 12-step programs are another good option to supplement therapy.

Does counseling work for treating food addiction?

Yes. Counseling that uses behavioral therapy techniques tends to work best for food addiction. Behavioral therapies like CBT and DBT work by helping the addict better identify the thoughts or behaviors that trigger the symptoms of food addiction.

With the right behavioral therapy and hard work, food addicts can enter recovery and enjoy a life not controlled by food addiction and unhealthy eating habits.

What is the difference between food addiction and an eating disorder?

An eating disorder often occurs due to body image issues and using unhealthy or dangerous methods to achieve a certain body size through restricting binging or purging.

Food addiction, on the other hand, is usually caused by the release of the feel-good chemical dopamine by eating addictive foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fats.

As the addict continues eating large amounts of food that trigger dopamine release, the brain becomes reliant on the resulting “high.”

What is the best way to treat a food addiction?

The best way to treat food addiction is through therapy and support groups. Working with a therapist can help food addicts better understand what causes their addiction and how to develop strategies that avoid relapse.

Because stress is often a primary trigger for food addicts, therapy or counseling can help patients learn to manage stress through healthier outlets rather than compulsively overeating.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

  1. About Us. Overeaters Anonymous. (2023, June 2).
  2. Adams, R. C., Sedgmond, J., Maizey, L., Chambers, C. D., & Lawrence, N. S. (2019, September 4). Food Addiction: Implications for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Overeating. Nutrients.
  3. Aguirre, T., Meier, N., Koehler, A., & Bowman, R. (2021, October 4). Highly Processed Food Addiction: A Concept Analysis. Wiley Online Library.
  4. Goodman, B. (2023, March 15). Food Addiction. WebMD.
  5. How to Get Started in FA. A Solution to Food Addiction: How to Start the FA Program. (n.d.).
  6. Tools of Recovery. Food Addicts Anonymous. (2023, May 20).

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