Understanding Food Addiction Substance Use Disorder

Traditionally, attention has focused on the two extremes of the continuum of substance use:

  1. Abstinence and
  2. severe Substance Use Disorder (also called addiction).

However, most people’s substance use does not fall into either of these extremes. 

Substance use ranges across a continuum from

  1. No Use (abstinence),
  2. Low-Risk Use,
  3. Risky Use,
  4. Harmful Use, to
  5. Substance Use Disorder.

People aged 18-25 account for the highest prevalence of substance use and substance use disorders.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) lists 11 criteria (symptoms) for diagnosis of a substance use disorder:

  1. mild = 2-3 symptoms,
  2. moderate = 4-5 symptoms,
  3. severe = 6 or more symptoms.

Most people who use substances are able to meet their obligations; without routine screening, their health providers may not be aware of their substance use. The incidence of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders is often underestimated; integrated treatment is most effective. Without routine screening in place, it’s likely most clinicians are unaware of their patient’s food addiction substance use.

Understanding a person’s substance use requires knowing not only what the person uses but also how he or she uses substances. A person’s use falls along a continuum ranging from no use (abstinence), through low-risk use, risky use, harmful use, to the chronic, relapsing brain disease known as a severe Substance Use Disorder (SUD).

Even if patients have not had repeated negative consequences, food addiction substance use could still be affecting their health.  With proper screening to identify the potential for food addiction as distinct from other eating disorders and food issues, a Certified Food Addiction Professional can assess the stage of food addiction and identify the severity level to provide appropriate treatment to achieve recovery from progressive symptoms.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Retrieved from

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Retrieved from​

International School for Food Addiction Counseling and Treatment (INFACT) Certified Food Addiction Professional curriculum