Hyperphagia, or Excessive Appetite

15 December, 2020
Hyperphagia, or excessive appetite, is associated with problems like excess weight and obesity, which can cause cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

The word hyperphagia comes from Greek, where hyper means “excess” and phagia means “to eat.” It’s a disorder in which individuals experience an excessive appetite. Also, their food intake is out of control.

The feeling of hunger is the normal desire to eat when the body needs it. However, in people who suffer from hyperphagia, this desire is uncontrollable. Therefore, those who suffer from it ingest enormous amounts of food at one time.

This condition frequently comes hand in hand with other health complications. Therefore, in this article, we’ll explain what hyperphagia consists of and what its main causes are.

What does hyperphagia consist of?

As we’ve explained, the sensation of hunger is a physiological desire that pushes us to feed ourselves when we need to. Hyperphagia consists of this desire increasing disproportionately. As a result, food intake becomes uncontrollable.

Individuals with hyperphagia eat enormous amounts of food in a single meal. Also, their meals usually consist of substances that aren’t healthy or nutritious.

A man eating a double hamburter loaded with condiments as a woman watches in the background.

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What are the symptoms?

The main problem is that there’s an excessive appetite or impulsive need to eat, which appears at any time, even at night. As a result, the person eats continually, even after finishing lunch or dinner.

In general, meal preparation is fast and hardly any chewing takes place while eating. Also, there’s a predilection for fatty or sugary foods. But, besides this continuous appetite, other symptoms also accompany hyperphagia.

Those who suffer from hyperphagia usually experience feelings of shape because they are unable to control themselves. What’s more, this condition also causes tremendous feelings of guilt. In fact, it’s not usually associated with provoked vomiting or laxatives. This is the main difference between hyperphagia and bulimia.

On the other hand, depending on the cause, this increased appetite can lead to excess weight and obesity. This makes self-esteem worse and insecurity much higher. For this reason, depression may also be a symptom that has to do with this condition.

Other serious diseases such as hypertension and diabetes derive from this obesity. There’s also a relationship between hyperphagia and an increase in cholesterol and triglycerides which, as we well know, are harmful to our cardiovascular health.

What’s more, eating so much so fast can cause digestive problems. Digestions are heavier, meaning the body doesn’t properly absorb certain nutrients. And, at the same time, the risk of dehydration increases.

An overwieght man eating at a table full of food.

What are the causes of hyperphagia?

In most cases, hyperphagia is due to a psychological disorder. The main causes are low self-esteem, fear, or inability to relate properly to others. Hyperphagia is usually a consequence of the anxiety that these situations produce.

In fact, it can also be linked to some specific problem. For example, it can appear in some women during premenstrual syndrome. Also, it sometimes shows up in people with a disease of the thyroid gland or in diabetics. Other causes are:

  • Bulimia
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Certain medications, such as antidepressants
  • Hypoglycemia

The point is that all these situations cause leptin levels to be altered. Leptin is the hormone in charge of the sensation of appetite. The result is that the sensation of hunger and satiety cannot be differentiated.

You may be interested: Picky Eater Syndrome

What to do about hyperphagia

The main thing is to go to the doctor to study the possible causes that may be causing hyperphagia. If it’s the result of some medication, your doctor will probably prescribe a new dose or replace the treatment.

When it’s due to a case of anxiety or depression, then it’s best to begin appropriate psychological treatment. However, a professional must first rule out all possible metabolic causes. For this purpose, they’ll carry out different complementary tests.

First, they’ll carry out blood and urine tests. It’s also important to assess the function of the thyroid gland to rule out a possible condition such as hyperthyroidism.

In conclusion

Hyperphagia is a condition that can have many causes, from a problem in the thyroid gland to a psychological disorder. Also, it’s not only a problem that leads to excess weight but can end up leading to different diseases, such as diabetes or hypertension.

Therefore, seeing a doctor is essential so that he or she can conduct the pertinent tests. Finding the cause and establishing an adequate treatment is essential to keeping the problem from becoming more serious.

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  • Hiperfagia: no puedo parar de comer – Psicólogos y Salud. (n.d.). Retrieved August 5, 2019, from http://www.psicologosysalud.cl/articulos/hiperfagia-no-puedo-parar-de-comer/
  • El aumento de hambre (hiperfagia). (n.d.). Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://www.sanitas.es/sanitas/seguros/es/particulares/biblioteca-de-salud/dieta-alimentacion/bioestilo-nutricion/aumento-hambre-hiperfagia.html