While obesity and addiction are two very different conditions, where one is based around the excessive consumption of food, and the other commonly around the abuse of drugs and alcohol, they are in fact very similar in their makeup.

Just as the consistent presence of sugary foods can result in psychological associations, addictive substances are also craved down to artificial forms of dopamine, causing a complex relationship with the brain.

Both are also highly stigmatised, where a lack of control is usually the onlooker’s perception of compulsive, irrational behaviours, believing that suffering through obesity or addiction is a choice.

Long-term side effects of both also place significant pressure on health, some of which are irreversible. In fact, similar triggers can motivate the initial development of either obesity or addiction, showcasing their comparable characteristics, commonly linked to the internal reward system.

Down to these similarities, it’s easy to see the relatable characteristics of both conditions, causing similar experiences and health concerns for those with diagnoses.

Yet, an interesting topic is a connection between both and whether they can trigger one another, resulting in a dual diagnosis.

If you’re struggling with compulsive behaviour, it is important that you consider professional intervention, as without it, risk of life-limiting probabilities is likely.

At Nova Recovery, we can help you with your rehabilitation, while delving into the correlating effects of obesity and its relationship with addiction.


Similarities between obesity and addiction

While similarities are highly present between both obesity and addiction, it’s easy to see their clear differences, where one develops through unhealthy dietary choices, and the other through unhealthy coping strategies or habits.

Yet, through those differences, commonly surface-level characteristics, it’s also easy to see the correlation between both, where obesity and its relationship with addiction is in fact complex.

Their similarities make their relationship multifaceted, as currently, little focus is placed on their influence on one another, but their identical impacts on the body and brain. Here are the closest similarities which definitely categorised both as compulsive, uncontrollable behaviours, led by psychological associations.


Brain association

Once fatty foods or takeaways are consumed, artificial forms of dopamine and serotonin will be produced in the brain, causing positive, happy feelings. In fact, food can mirror the effects of consuming drugs, which again causes extra levels of happy chemicals.

The problem is, is that both stimuli rapidly associate themselves with the brain, as once withdrawal kicks in, cravings of those exact feelings will reside. This showcases the clear link between obesity and its relationship with addiction, making obesity in fact a type of habit.


Feeding into the reward system

Similar to the above point, both also feed into the reward system, targeting the same area of the brain. Rewarding oneself is very common for humans, by giving into cravings.

Without continuing the consumption of junk foods or drugs/alcohol, an imbalance will be present in the reward system, which ultimately motivates even greater desires of consumption.

For example, high sugar foods may be categorised as a trigger for someone with obesity. They will continue to eat those foods, building up an internal tolerance, and in turn developing the production of dopamine.

As the reward system will recognise this increase, it will continue to expect that same effect moving forward, showcasing addictive footprints. In order to survive, the brain will signal for the greater reward which will motivate ongoing consumption, which is also the case through substance abuse.



Both obesity and addiction are highly stigmatised in today’s society, making it difficult for many to speak out and rehabilitate. Onlookers commonly believe that both conditions are fuelled by greed, by low levels of willpower, and by the choice to consume either stimuli, negligently.

It is important to remember that intentions while experiencing obesity and addiction will usually go out the window, as they are highly controlling, influenced by one of the most important and high functioning organs.

This similarity is highly concerning, as more and more people are suffering through the stigmatisation of obesity and addiction, rather than seeing the medical and restraining impacts both have.



An interesting point through the correlation of obesity and its relationship with addiction is that both can experience similar triggers, influencing initial use.

Stress, mental health issues, loneliness, personal worries, health concerns, and pre-existing biology and genetics are all linked to overeating and substance abuse, showcasing how either condition can materialise from a trigger.

Here’s where the complex relationship of obesity and addiction comes into play, as for each individual, fleeing towards either coping strategy is likely. Yet, through doing so, an unhealthy, negative habit will be in play.


Significant health risks

Excessive consumption of trigger foods or drugs/alcohol is highly damaging on the body and mind. Both conditions in fact cause significant health risks, some of which are very similar. For example, mental health issues are common throughout both obesity and addiction diagnoses, down to the changes experienced by the user.

Down to the ongoing cycle of highs and lows, controlled by the reward system, a roller-coaster of emotions ties obesity and its relationship with addiction, together, showing how a severe decline can result in binge drinking or eating.


Challenging withdrawal processes

A further similarity is that withdrawing from trigger foods is a similar process to withdrawing from drugs or alcohol. Significant withdrawal symptoms are expected as the body and brain adapt to reduced levels of dopamine.


Obesity and its relationship with addiction

Considering the above, there are many similarities between the two independent diagnoses. However, while a strong relationship between both obesity and addiction is expected, there is in fact little evidence on whether each can impact one another.

At face value, it’s understandable to see how both can entwine, where low self-esteem of weight gain can result in the escapism of substance abuse. The effect can also be the case when considering an addiction, where food may be a comforter through the cycle.

Ultimately, the correlation between obesity and its relationship with addiction will depend on the individual person, their pre-existing weaknesses towards compulsive behaviours, and the stimuli which carry addictive tendencies.

Logically, food addiction will severely impact someone who is obese, placing greater risk through dual diagnosis. Yet, who’s to say that connectivity will be present for someone who is misusing drugs, rather than food.


Overcoming obesity, addiction, and their relationship

If you’re experiencing a dual diagnosis, where a clear relationship is present between obesity and addiction, sourcing dual diagnosis treatment will be necessary to recover.

Treatment is available at our Scottish rehab facility where there is the possibility to unravel the complex correlation between both conditions, while also learning to withdraw and manage the symptoms of both obesity and addiction.

For singular diagnoses, tailor-made treatment programmes will be offered, which we also provide at Nova Recovery, focusing on withdrawal, on restoration, on the formation of new coping strategies, and on realigning the brain.

Naturally, significant lifestyle changes will be necessary to avoid ongoing exposure to trigger foods or drugs, defining similarities once again between obesity and addiction. Yet, personal recommendations will be made, down to unique makeup of each association.

At Nova Recovery, we appreciate that this is a lot of information to grasp around obesity and its relationship with addiction.

Yet, if you’re suffering at all through an impulse control disorder, it’s time to consider professional help.

We are here for you, no matter the situation, in place to help you cope, reward yourself and exist differently, without the influence of food or addictive substances.

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