Food addiction is a Primary Disease

Food addiction is primary and not the result of any other diseases. Treating secondary diseases will not facilitate recovery. Treating the secondary diseases whether they be physical, mental or emotional will not “fix” addiction. It is just putting out fires.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a chronic brain disorder and not simply a behavioral problem involving too much alcohol, food, drugs, gambling or sex. ASAM has taken an official position that addiction is not solely related to problematic substance use.
“At its core, addiction isn’t just a social problem or a moral problem or a criminal problem. It’s a brain problem whose behaviors manifest in all these other areas,” said Dr. Michael Miller, past president of ASAM who oversaw the development of the new definition. “Many behaviors driven by addiction are real problems and sometimes criminal acts. But the disease is about brains, not drugs. It’s about underlying neurology, not outward actions.”

ASAM describes addiction as a primary disease, meaning that it is not caused by other mental disorders. Depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses do not cause people to “self-medicate” and then to progress into addiction to food, drugs, and other substances and activities. Addiction is a primary or first disease with its own root causes in the brain.

In this regard, addiction is not “issue oriented”. Issues don’t cause addiction, addiction causes issues. In other words, resolving issues does not lead to recovery. Recovery is based on getting abstinent in order to resolve life issues. That is why my favorite slogan is Recovery First. We want recovery to become primary. When it is primary, meaning “of chief importance”, we put our lives into recovery, not recovery into our lives. It cannot be a sideline. It is number one or zero.
How can we make recovery number one? For me, that means to keep it conscious, intentional, consistent and daily. We need to evaluate every decision, behavior, relationship, and life situation in terms of our recovery. Is this good for my recovery? That is the question we ask ourselves as we move through life.

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