Despite the negative consequences, addiction is often defined as a compulsive need for a substance or activity.
Addictions typically involve craving, bingeing, tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms.
Although most people associate addictions with drugs and alcohol, many different substances and behaviors can be addictive.
In fact, one common item that brings on all these characteristics of addiction is probably in your kitchen right now: sugar.
Do You Binge On Sugar?
Most people don’t think of themselves as “sugar addicts.” Or, if they do, they might not think of it as a big deal.
But if you regularly overeat sugary foods or drinks, there’s a good chance this behavior negatively impacts your health.
One of the biggest problems with sugar is that it’s so easy to overconsume. You might not even realize how much sugar is hiding in your favorite foods. You just keep eating and eating (and washing it down with a sugar-filled soda or juice), unable to stop yourself.
Sugar binges like this can quickly lead to weight gain and other health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.
Do You Crave Sugar?
Another sign that you might be addicted to sugar is if you constantly crave it (or the tasty treats containing it).
Sugar cravings can be hard to resist and often strike when you’re not even hungry. That’s because sugar acts on your brain in a similar way to powerful drugs like cocaine.
When you eat sugar, it activates the reward center in your brain (including opioid receptors) and releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine. These systems are involved in pleasure, motivation, and repetitive behaviors.
Eating sugar trains your brain to keep wanting more and more. And pretty soon, you need sugar just to feel normal (this is called tolerance).
Do You Experience Sugar Withdrawal?
You may feel irritable, anxious, or even depressed if you miss your usual sugar fix. You might also experience headaches, fatigue, or trouble concentrating.
These are all signs of sugar withdrawal, and they can be tough to deal with.
When you do finally get some sugar, you’ll probably find these withdrawal symptoms going away. But relieving those withdrawal symptoms by eating more sugar is not a healthy long-term solution. You’re only reinforcing the addiction and setting yourself up for more cravings and more withdrawal symptoms in the future.
Instead, start looking for ways to cut sugar out of your diet. Notice what emotions or situations trigger your cravings—it’s usually stress, anxiety, or boredom—and come up with healthy alternatives to cope with those feelings.
With a little effort, you can break free from the binge-withdrawal cycle and improve your health in the process.