Cravings, Obsessions, and Addictions
There are patterns that exist if you are a food addict. One of the most important features of being able to identify if you actually have a food addiction, is the experience of food cravings and food obsessions. Typically these would be focussed on high sugar, fat, and salt items, such as muffins or an icecap, pizza, doughnuts, or even a Big Mac, etc. The obsessing leads to continually thinking and strategizing about the next food intake. Favourite foods enter into the mind as soon as you stop eating, and can be a preoccupation in between busyness. The plan might even be put in place, for when the next meal or snack is to be had, even while eating. These cravings and obsessions can be insidious, permeating everything. The trigger is not necessarily quantity or unhealthiness but, it can also be triggered when eating healthy foods, or what one considers to be healthy. Continuous eating can overwhelm the bodies regulatory system, and override the feeling of when a person is actually really full. The more you eat, just like any alcoholic or drug addict, the more you want.
A lot of people overeat in order to keep their mouth occupied, similar to people who smoke. Freud (1905) had a term for this, ‘oral stimulation’. If when you were a baby your were weaned either too early or too late in development, the thought is that you will develop an oral fixation. This may contribute to behaviours involving the mouth such as; smoking, alcoholism, over-eating, talking too much, or having an abrasive or "biting" personality.
People with oral fixations, do these things in order to have the experience of putting something in their mouth. If you have ever watched a baby of around nine months of age, all they do is put everything into their mouth. They do this in order to savour the touch sensation of their mouth, sucking as well as chewing and swallowing. The goal with oral fixation is to keep the mouth busy, and people do this by; chewing on nails or cuticles, pens or straws. The busyness of the mouth keeps the mind preoccupied, and the sensation excites the pleasure centre of the brain.
The infant that is either weaned too early or too late works through this conflict orally. So, the answer is to be able to find ways to self sooth as well as manage anxiety, that take you way from needing to stimulate the mouth and to chew or suck. Sometimes this might be solved by increasing drinking water and using a water bottle, chewing on items with no carbohydrates, such as no carb gummies, gum, or sucking through a straw, or sucking on or chewing ice. Otherwise, the answer is to better understand that oral fixation is actually an issue for you, and as such, creating strategies that allow you to redirect yourself to healthier choices, is a way in which to manage your oral fixation.
People who are oral fixators are also sensitive to rejection. Rejection is a huge driving force that leads to the pain of shame and guilt, and no one likes to be rejected. The fear of rejection leads people to do whatever it takes to not be rejected, and as such, they are willing to “swallow” the bad feelings in order to hide them. This experience of rejection is a painful or fearful experience. Many individuals that have been larger than others at any given time, have experienced this pain as socially unacceptable. Unfortunately, because oral fixation also has a tendency to lead to weight gain, this becomes an even bigger painful experience.
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