As Usual, 'Food Addicts' Only Get Judged If They're Obese

While a study found that food addiction isn't as stigmatized as other addictions, that rises when the addict is overweight


We all know that food addiction can be a real thing (science did say ice cream is sort of like crack, targeting the rewards center in our brain), but public consensus is still grappling with how to deal with it all.

A new study from Yale found that while food addiction isn't quite as stigmatized as, say, heroin addiction, the stigma actually increases when a person is described as obese. "Compared to other stigmatizing addictions, food addiction is less vulnerable to the public stigma," Rebecca Puhl at the Rudd Center told the Hartford Courant.

Researchers conducted two surveys of adults about their feelings toward people with a variety of addictions and disabilities. Both studies found that food addicts were still seen more favorably than other addicts.

Unfortunately, perception of food addicts went decidedly negative when the addict was identified as obese. Puhl says in those cases, obese food addicts were stigmatized even more than other addicts. "The problem is that obesity is so strongly associated with willpower or personal responsibility," Puhl said. "Whether the food addiction label is enough to to challenge those stereotypes, we don't know."

Food addiction has definitely been targeted as a cause of obesity, as food cravings can cause similar pyschological and physical reactions that drug and alcohol addiction can cause, Puhl says. Researchers hope that soon the public will start regarding food addiction as a disease instead of a fault of willpower, just as alcoholism, now seen as an illness, was originally perceived as a moral failing.


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