Christian Counseling: Can A Person Become A Chocoholic?

Christmas is the season for many things, such as seeking to satiate our stomachs with sensuous sweets. Said differently, sugar. Sadly we succor our psyche with sumptuous substances that sacrifice our spiritual selves and stampede us into slavery. Without doubt, there are people who would say, "Yes, I am a chocoholic." because of their very strong cravings for chocolate. 


Research shows that the same centers in the brain that regulate pleasures, rewards and cravings become at least partially deactivated when the object of craving is satisfied. If it is not satisfied then it can induce a stress-like response.1 The brain craves many substances, such as: caffeine, alcohol, drugs, fat and sugar, the latter two of which are contained in chocolate. Does that mean it is addictive?


You may be familiar with the original 1960 movie or the 1986 remake of "Little Shop of Horrors." This comedy/sci-fi tells the story of a store owner who accidentally creates a hybrid Venus Flytrap that feeds not on soil, water and sunshine, but human blood. Again accidentally, the owner cuts his finger and the plant gets a sweet taste. (Great Christmas story, isn't it?) The owner and the plant are in love, and, as any man, he has a craving to please her and satisfy his lover's every desire. In time, he discovers, as most men do, that giving his own blood is not enough or good enough. Perhaps the owner feels unmanly, but he seeks the blood of others through murder, which undoubtedly he views as acts of love and necessary for survival--his and hers. It is unclear if the plant can take nourishment through other means than human blood. If that is the case, then the plant has an addiction, and the dysfunctional owner is enabling the addiction by feeding her what she wants, when she wants it.


Getting back on the bus to Reality. The research is not conclusive about chocolate being addictive, although you may be interested in the criteria for addiction:  an intense craving, loss of control over object of your craving, and continuing to indulge in it despite negative consequences (social conflicts or, in the case of chocolate, becoming overweight and/or irritable due to overdosing on sugar or the stimulatory effect of chocolate). It is important to distinguish between habituation and addiction. Habituation is only a psychological dependency, while addiction requires a physiological dependency. Are you able to determine whether your cravings come from the mind (psychological) or the body (physical)? Another question beyond the addiction issue is worth the asking, "Is one's craving for chocolate ever a problem or concern?"


The answer is best determined by the indulgent party: the chocolate aficionado or aficionada (feminine). If your life is disturbed by problemed thoughts or feelings of guilt and anxiety or loved ones complaining about the effects of your chocolate indulgence then, "Houston, we have a problem."


1  Miller, Michael Craig, M.D. Harvard Mental Health Newsletter. Is it possible to become addicted to chocolate? November, 2011: Vol. 28, No. 5, p. 8.  

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