Neuropharmacology of compulsive eating
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Compulsive eating behavior is a transdiagnostic construct observed in certain forms of obesity and eating disorders, as well as in the recently proposed ‘food addiction.’ Compulsive eating has been conceptualized as being comprised of three elements: i) habitual overeating, ii) overeating to relieve a negative emotional state, and iii) overeating despite adverse consequences. Neurobiological processes that include maladaptive habit formation, the emergence of a negative affect, and dysfunctions in inhibitory control are thought to drive the development and persistence of compulsive eating behavior. These complex psychobehavioral processes are under the control of various neuropharmacological systems. Here, we describe the current evidence implicating these systems in compulsive eating behavior, and contextualize them within the three elements. A better understanding of the neuropharmacological substrates of compulsive eating behavior has the potential to significantly advance the pharmacotherapy for feeding-related pathologies.