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Elizabeth Hartney, PhD

How CBT Can Help With Obesity, Overeating and Exercise Addiction

By February 6, 2011

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Recently, I've written about how Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) can help with sex problems, drug problems and money problems arising from addictive behaviors. And, as you've probably guessed, CBT can be applied to other addictive behaviors, such as compulsive overeating and exercise addiction.

Researchers are only just beginning to understand the addictive nature of food, and the similairities between food and exercise addictions and other addictions. The controversy over whether eating disorders, which can include over-exercise as a form of purging in bulimia, are a type of addiction has been debated for the past two decades, but as obesity levels soar, and the stages of change model is increasingly applied to these problems, food and exercise addiction are becoming increasingly accepted as real.

So how can CBT help?

The story How CBT helped Jenna stop overeating illustrates how binge eating can arise from letting your emotional reactions direct your decision making, although they might actually be distorting your view of reality.

Jenna's story also touches on self esteem issues which are common among people who overeat, and those who overexercise. Recent research shows that early sexual abuse is related both to problems with self esteem and to food addiction in women, and that in some cases, food addiction may be related to a lack of sexual contact, although, as I have argued, we need to be careful not to misinterpret these research findings.

There are many types of compulsive eating and eating disorder, and many different reasons that people can become overweight or obese, which may not be related to addiction. In addition, most people do not over-exercise -- on the contrary, most of us do not exercise enough! If you think you may be overeating, overweight or obese, or overexercising, you should first talk to your doctor to get an accurate idea of whether there is really anything wrong, keeping in mind my tips for an accurate diagnosis.

CBT is just one approach to treatment, and there are many different treatments for weight problems and eating disorders available. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the best course of action, based on an accurate assessment of your physical and psychological condition, and your medical history.

If you have problems with overeating or overexercise, you may also find these self esteem boosters help:

If you have tried CBT for overeating, exercise addiction, or any other compulsive behavior, we'd love to hear from you.

February 26, 2011 at 4:44 pm
(1) Henrik says:

Hey, thanks a lot for this article! I am currently reading a book about addictions and it says that the origin of an addiction is always a lack of something else, that you need to figure out.

April 19, 2011 at 2:45 pm
(2) Paul Appleton says:

….and the addiction to overeating is the lack of….? Henrik/others

July 11, 2011 at 9:26 am
(3) buy oem software cheap says:

your thoughts and opinions help me see the light.

July 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm
(4) Appetite Suppressant says:

One thing missing in CBT very often is the addition of pharmacological or natural appetite suppressants. recently this have been a focus of Faribrun et al. in some studies. Some time therapy, goals, etc. is not enough.

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