The consequences of unidentified sugar addiction can result in depression, anxiety disorders, antisocial behaviors and violence, learning disabilities, ADHD, microbial overgrowth, lack of inner peace and well being, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, Alzheimer’s, and drug and alcohol addiction to name a few.
Sugar and other high glycemic foods (e.g. white flour, potatoes, refined starch) are mind-altering addictive substances that have been shown in brain scans to affect an area of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens in the same manner as hard drugs like cocaine and heroin.
Read on to see if you fit the criteria for this serious addiction and what you can do to overcome your cravings.
The American Psychiatric Association defines addiction (or substance dependence) by the following criteria in the DSM IV:
“A maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three (or more) of the following, occurring any time in the same 12-month period.”
1. Development of tolerance over time. There is either an increased need for greater amounts of the addictive substance to achieve the desired effect or a notable diminished effect with ongoing use of the same quantity of the substance.
2. Withdrawal is experienced when one attempts to discontinue use.
3. Larger amounts of the substance are used or are used over a longer period than intended.
4. Repeated efforts to cut down or control the use of the substance is unsuccessful despite a persistent desire to do so.
5. A substantial amount of time is invested in acquiring the substance or recovering from the effects of its use.
6. Other important activities (social, occupational or recreational) are sacrificed for use of the substance.
7. Use of the substance is continued despite the presence of known consequences to physical or emotional health.
Now, let’s take a look at how these criteria manifest in the sugar-addicted:
1. People with sugar addiction notice an increased need for more and more sugar or high glycemic foods to achieve their sugar high or they arrive at a point where it no longer provides the same boost.
2. Significant withdrawal is experienced if sugar and starches are cut out of the diet. Including symptoms like headaches, irritability, impaired cognitive functions, profound fatigue, trembling and shaking, nervousness, insomnia, inability to cope, or feeling like they will lose their minds.
3. Instead of eating one cookie or a bowl of ice cream as they desire, the sugar-addicted will feel out of control and eat the whole bag of cookies or a half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting. They may also binge all day instead of having one serving for dessert.
4. People addicted to sugar are repeatedly unsuccessful at cutting sugar out of their diet and keeping it out even though they have a very strong desire to give it up.
5. A considerable amount of time may be spent acquiring sugar-laden products by running out to the bakery or ice cream shop or baking at odd hours. The sugar-addicted may also engage in hiding and lying about these behaviors. They may keep their sugar stash in a secret drawer or sneak into the closet or garage to indulge alone.
A substantial amount of time may be spent recovering from an indulgence or a binge that impairs daily activities. Many people with sugar addiction live double lives and struggle with guilt and shame over their eating behaviors.
6. Other activities that are important to them like exercising, family events, or cognitive-based activities will be given up due to the effects of sugar binging.
7. The individual addicted to sugar will continue to engage in consumption even when they are fully aware that they will experience serious consequences like low blood sugar, depression, anxiety attacks, inability to function, brain fog, not being the mother they want to be, or poor job performance. Even when their doctor tells them they may die from type 2 diabetes complications, obesity, or heart disease, if they don’t change their diet, many are still unable to quit.
Although it isn’t listed in the criteria above, I would add that the sugar-addicted individual will rationalize and justify their use just like a drug addict. They may also go in and out of denial about their addiction and its impact on their life.
As you can see, those struggling with sugar addiction fulfill all the criteria for the definition of addiction. However, they face another disadvantage that someone struggling with drug or alcohol dependence doesn’t encounter, which is a lack of support and encouragement to overcome their addiction. Most people, even many health care practitioners, fail to see their consumption as true dependence or recognize the seriousness of its impact and how difficult it is to conquer. Not only that, they provide them with no resources to achieve the goal.
End Your Sugar Addiction Today
Fortunately, you can find everything you need to be successful in overcoming your cravings for sugar and carbs in this handy little toolkit. Addiction to sugar occurs because consumption of sugar alters brain chemistry and damages the endocrine system. With the right changes in diet and lifestyle, you can restore balance to brain chemistry and the endocrine system, at which time cravings will dissipate. As someone who has recovered from addiction to sugar and carbs and many other substances, you can learn the exact principles I use that enable me to live a craving-free life.
If you need a more personal touch or stronger supports contact me today for a one-on-one coaching session.
Eliminating sugar and other high glycemic foods from your diet is one of the most important steps you can take to not only improve your mental, physical and spiritual health but protect it in the future from other more serious conditions. It’s also one of the most simple, affordable, and practical self-care strategies you can put into action.
- Dr. Mark Hyman. “5 Clues You are Addicted to Sugar.” http://drhyman.com/blog/2013/06/27/5-clues-you-are-addicted-to-sugar
- American Psychiatric Association DSM