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Difference between Cravings and Addiction


Dr. Sheila Forman


addiction and recovery

Dr. Sheila Forman, a former practicing attorney, has PhD in psychology, and is a one of the first qualified Mindfulness Based Eating Awareness Training (MB EAT) Instructors in the world. Often characterized as having the mind of a lawyer and the heart of a therapist, Dr. Sheila has devoted over twenty years to helping people address weight and food issues by focusing on the emotional aspects of overeating.

People often wonder if they are becoming addicted to something. Maybe they are. Let's find out with psychologist, Dr. Sheila Forman as our guide.


What pushes a certain person to develop a certain addiction?

Addiction is a biochemical and physiological response to the ingestion of certain substances or the participation in certain behaviors. When someone is addicted, the reward, memory and motivation centers of the brain are impaired.  There is a two-fold explanation for why people develop addictions. First, the substance or behavior they engage in leads to a positive  experience, typically caused by an increase in the neurotransmitter dopamine. Over time dopamine supplies diminish and then it takes more and more of the substance or behavior to get that good feeling again (this is called tolerance). Second, as dopamine levels diminish, people seek their substance or behavior just to feel “normal” again  (this is called withdrawal.)


What are some of the similarities between addictions and cravings?

Addiction is a disease. Cravings are a symptom and may be a sign that a person is developing an addiction. Interestingly, the term addiction is actually not a diagnostic label. The DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) uses the term substance use disorder (SUD) instead of addiction. SUD is defined as a pattern of symptoms caused by the continued use of a substance despite causing negative effects.


How can you tell when a craving is developing into addiction?
Cravings are symptoms of addiction. When cravings lead to the following DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for SUD, a person is likely developing an addiction:

1.      Using more of substance than intended or using for longer than intended

2.      Unable to cut down or stop using

3.      Intense cravings or urges to use

4.      Need more of the substance to get desired effect

5.      Experience withdrawal symptoms when not using

6.      Spending a lot of time involved with the substance (getting/using)

7.      Neglecting responsibilities

8.      Missing important events

9.      Using even if causing relationship problems

10.  Finding yourself in dangerous or risky situations

11.  Continued use even though use is causing physical and mental problems.

What are some of the consequences of developing an addiction?
Addictions have the potential to negatively impact every area of a person’s life. Here are some of the consequences. Addictions:

1.      Interfere with one’s personal life

2.      Interfere with one’s professional life

3.      Compromise physical health

4.      Compromise psychological health

5.      Cause financial problems

6.      Cause legal problems 

How can someone avoid becoming addicted to something? 

Below are 5 ways to prevent addiction:

1.      Get educated about substance abuse and/or addicted behaviors

2.      Minimize exposure and frequency to the substance or behavior

3.      Manage stress and anxiety by developing healthy coping skills

4.      Don’t isolate; build and maintain satisfying relationships

5.      Find meaning in your lie – a career, a hobby, a passion


Dr. Sheila Forman is a Psychologist, Mindful Eating Instructor and the founder of TAME Your Appetite: The Art of Mindful Eating. She is an expert in helping people cope with their emotions without eating and using a non-diet approach to lose weight and make peace with food. She is also the author of several self-help books, including Do You Use Food to Cope? A Comprehensive 15-Week Program for Overcoming Emotional Overeating, and The Best Diet Begins in Your Mind - Eliminating the Eight Obstacles to Permanent Weight Loss. Her new book TAME Your Appetite: The Art of Mindful Eating, is  available now. Coming soon: Mindful Bites Joyful Life: 365 Days of Mindful Eating. 



For more information on Dr. Sheila Forman or to book her for an appearance, please go to or call 310-828-8004. 


Contact info: 

2708 Wilshire Blvd., #423

Santa Monica, CA 90403


(cell) 310-995-2529



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