Sure, we all love to indulge in junk food every now and then, especially during stressful times like final exams or after a bad break (cue the Ben & Jerry’s pints).
But if junk food is something you can’t seem to live without—you’re hitting up the McDonald’s or Taco Bell drive-thru every single day, for example—there’s a chance you may be addicted to it. While an addiction to unhealthy snacks or fast-food may not be quite as severe as an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it actually affects the same areas of your brain and involves the same neurotransmitters. In case you’re not sure whether or not you’re constant cravings for candy or cheeseburgers is an addiction, scientists developed a series of criteria—the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistics Manual IV)—to make that determination.
Under these guidelines, a substance (in this case, junk food) is addictive if they meet three out of the seven following criteria. So if you find that you’re suffering from three of the symptoms on this list, you would be considered addicted to junk food according to the medical definition. Check out the 7 signs that indicate you may be addicted to junk food below.
1. You suffer from withdrawal
Although withdrawal is hard to accurately measure in humans, if you experience headaches, irritability or cravings after not eating junk food for a period of time, you are probably in withdrawal.
2. Loss of control
This means that you can’t control how much junk food you consume in one sitting, meaning you may overindulge or binge when eating.
You feel the need to eat more and more junk food each time in order to produce the same amount of dopamine release.
4. Continued use despite harmful effects
If you continue to eat junk food despite the unhealthy side effects, such as weight gain, then this symptom may apply to you.
Salience basically means that you spend a significant amount of time obtaining or thinking about the substance. It’s essentially another word for craving.
6. Repeated attempts to cut down
When you know that junk food is bad for you and want to cut down or eliminate it from your diet completely, but just can’t seem to make the change.
7. It affects your social life
If you choose not to attend a party or hang out with friends because you’re embarrassed to eat junk food in front of them, then the habit is definitely affecting your social life.