Having just read this question and not done any research, this is my opinion:
I think an addiction of any sort is a problem. It suggests an imbalance in somebody’s life and that they have had to develop a external crutch on which to rely, rather than on their own inner faith and strength.
From what I’ve witnessed, an addiction is a behavioral symptom of the root problem, not the cause; it’s a coping mechanism that may provide solace in the short-run, but will ultimately prove detrimental over time.
Maybe Jude could offer more insight (she recently posted a question about “addiction sickness” and offered some valuable insight into its cause and treatment).
Food addiction is real. There have been numerous studies published relative to this area. Salt, Fat, and Sugar are three primary substance that people get addicted to. Food establishments, manufactures have mastered integrating these ingredients into any food to create an addiction. Some psychological based research studies were published (dont have on hand at the moment) that showed that addictions to food can be worse than cocaine or herion.
Couple of EXCELLENT books I recommend on this topic!
Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think
Brian Wansink Ph.D.
The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite
Fuel the Movement,
Sometimes I think that a food addiction is even worse than a drug addiction. With a drug addiction you have the luxury of being able to quit altogether. Ask anyone who quit smoking: most of them will say that they cannot just smoke the occasional cigarette. It’s all or nothing.
With food, that’s not an option. You have to come to terms with it somehow, and that in the presence of an advertisement industry that boasts that ‘you can’t eat just one’.
I second Jason’s comment and his book recommendations. I like Dr. Kessler’s book particularly well because it allowed me an insight into the mindset of over-eaters which I would not have had otherwise. Being somebody myself who really does not have an issue with food, it is not easy to understand what goes on in somebody’s mind who is powerless in the presence of food. This is well described in Dr. Kessler’s book.
Yes, I believe it’s real. Having worked with a few clients who have issues with food, I can say that in my experience and opinion the “addiction” is really often in the comfort that the person feels from the food rather than the actual food itself – unlike some drug addictions (so I’m told) where the actual drug is craved by the body. Whether it’s the food itself, or simply the comfort feeling that the person gets from the food, I believe that food addiction IS real.