It is not a secret. Previous studies have shown that obese people behave somewhat like those who are addicted to alcohol or drugs. However, obesity is more complex than addiction, and scientists are not 100% sure about explaining obesity by the addiction model.
Obesity rates worldwide have tripled since 1975, according to WHO, probably due to the increased availability of inexpensive, high-calorie food. While some researchers believe food addiction is to be blamed, others argue that food does not have addictive molecules like nicotine or caffeine.
To figure out how similar or different obesity behaviors and addictive behaviors are, a research team led by Dr. Alain Dagher conducted an experiment.
A score of the “big 5” personality traits, including agreeableness, extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness is given to individuals after the participants get a personality test. The researchers then link personality test scores with body weight or addictive behaviors and build unique personality profiles.
After comparing and analyzing these personality profiles of 18,611 participants, they found that:
1) All addictions had very similar personality profiles, suggesting great behavioral overlap.
2) Although addictions were behaviorally similar to uncontrolled eating, the behavioral link between addictions and obesity was much weaker.
3) Obesity shared behavioral overlap with mood disorders and certain personality disorders.
The results showed that obesity treatments may benefit from borrowing methods from addiction treatments to improve people’s self-control capabilities due to the similarities overeating and addictions share.
However, further research is still required to fully comprehend the behavioral profile of obesity, since the research only reveal limited similarities between obesity and addictions.