What is hyperphagia?

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

Hyperphagia, also called polyphagia, is a serious eating disorder. It is characterized by excessive consumption of food. People suffering from this disorder eat beyond what is necessary to meet their bodies’ energy needs. However, this excessive consumption of food can occupy a large part of the time and lead the individual to interrupt their daily activities.

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The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.

People with overeating disorder eat more quickly than normal and only stop when they feel physically uncomfortable. Left untreated, the disease can cause problems like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke and dementia.

What is hyperphagia?

Binge eating is an increase in appetite, which leads to eating more food than usual. This phenomenon can be temporary or permanent and can sometimes be obsessive. An uncontrolled urge to consume large amounts of food during meals or outside of meal times may indicate a major eating disorder (overeating, bulimia nervosa, and nighttime eating syndrome).

What is hyperphagia
People with hyperphagia usually do not consume a particular food, with the preference varying between sweets, snacks, fried foods, fruits, among others. This condition devastates the patient’s health.

This disorder does not usually appear in early childhood. Much like other obsessive behaviors, overeating appears in the late preschool years. Overeating can be caused by overeating, an eating disorder, which leads to consuming large quantities of food in the shortest possible time.

People with hyperphagia usually do not consume a particular food, with the preference varying between sweets, snacks, fried foods, fruits, among others. This condition devastates the patient’s health.

Episodes of polyphagia can occur during pregnancy, but this form is generally accepted and culturally expected, although it is not really healthy for the mother or the child. Along with polydipsia (increased thirst) and polyuria (frequent excessive urination), hyperphagia is one of the three main symptoms of diabetes.

The most notable sign of overeating is obesity, a condition sometimes associated with many health problems, such as diabetes and heart problems. Diagnosis involves looking for the trigger. Treatment aims to control or eliminate the cause of overeating. Nutritional rehabilitation is essential in the management of this disorder. The use of certain medications can also be useful, as well as psychological monitoring.

What are the causes of overeating?

Overeating is not, in itself, a disease. It is a symptom of other diseases. Several dysfunctions can lead to hyperphagia.

Psychological and psychiatric disorders

Mental illnesses are the main cause of overeating. This disorder can accompany certain conditions of the central nervous system, such as:

  • gangliocytoma,
  • astrocytoma,
  • bulimia,
  • Kleine-Levin syndrome,
  • Frohlich syndrome,
  • Parkinson’s disease,
  • anxiety,
  • the Depression,
  • and schizophrenia.


The use of certain medications can also cause this condition. This is particularly the case for corticosteroids, antidepressants and neuroleptics.


Hyperthyroidism, one of the main physical causes of overeating, is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces excessively high levels of hormones. These hormones are primarily responsible for metabolism, a chemical process that converts calories from food into usable energy for the body’s needs.

A person whose thyroid produces a large amount of hormones may feel much more hungry than normal because their body thinks it needs more food for energy. Other symptoms of this condition include excessive sweating, weight loss, nervousness, hair loss, and difficulty sleeping.

Causes of overeating
Hyperthyroidism, which manifests itself, among other things, by excessive and frequent sweating, is a cause of hyperphagia.


Another possible physical cause of overeating is hypoglycemia, a medical condition that causes an unusually low amount of sugar in the bloodstream. The body gets most of its energy from sugar in the blood.

Having lower blood sugar than normal can lead to a desire for more food. Hypoglycemia can be caused by kidney disease, alcoholism, pancreatic tumors, diabetes or hunger.

Sleeping troubles

Sleep deprivation is another risk factor for overweight and obesity. Sleep affects the levels of two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which control feelings of hunger and fullness. Leptin tells your brain that you have eaten enough.

Without enough sleep, your brain reduces the amount of leptin and increases the levels of ghrelin, which is an appetite stimulant. The flow of these hormones could explain nighttime snacking or why some may overeat late at night.


When stressed, your body produces a large amount of cortisol. Cortisol can induce hunger. Eating can, in some cases, be an emotional response to stress. When you are stressed, you may start eating to try to overcome negative emotions.

You can do this consciously or unconsciously. Stress can also produce physical symptoms, such as lack of energy, unexplained aches and pains, insomnia, frequent colds, upset stomach.


If you overeat foods containing bad sugars and fats, you may feel hungry again shortly after your last meal. In fact, foods like white bread and junk food are devoid of satiating nutrients like fiber and protein.

avoid overeating through diet
To avoid overeating, eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean meat and fish.

Premenstrual syndrome

Hormonal changes associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle can trigger intense cravings just before her period. Spikes in estrogen and progesterone and a decrease in serotonin can lead to intense cravings for carbs and fats.

Other symptoms of PMS include irritability and mood swings, bloating, gas, fatigue and diarrhea.


Although polyphagia has many causes, there is a strong link between polyphagia and diabetes. Diabetes affects the body’s ability to use glucose and regulate blood sugar levels.

Sugar in the blood is necessary for the body’s cells to do their work. When blood sugar levels are low, you may feel hungry. Because in people with diabetes, glucose is not used properly, diabetics may continue to feel hungry even after eating.

To combat polyphagia in people with diabetes, the patient can seek help from their doctor and dietician. To avoid the risk of overeating and therefore weight gain, the dietitian can prescribe diet plans to these patients that reduce calories and balance meals to ensure good nutrition.

Essentially, a diabetic patient with polyphagia will eat many small meals throughout the day. This will help alleviate the symptoms of polyphagia and prevent recurrences.

Using insulin can also help with polyphagia. This, of course, must be done under the watchful eye of a doctor. Each case of diabetes is different, so the use of insulin will depend on the doctor’s judgment.

Prader-Willi syndrome

Prader-Willi syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that causes a number of physical, mental and behavioral problems. A key feature of Prader-Willi syndrome is a constant feeling of hunger that usually begins around age 2.

This constant hunger leads the patient to eat very often and consume large portions. Unusual foraging behaviors, such as hoarding food, or eating frozen foods or even trash, may develop.

People with Prader-Willi syndrome want to eat constantly because they never feel full (hyperphagia) and they usually have trouble controlling their weight. Many complications of Prader-Willi syndrome are due to obesity.

Symptoms of overeating

Hyperphagia is a syndrome characterized by eating increased amounts of solid foods. The patient usually consumes very large meals and eats between meals. He drinks large amounts of fluids, especially those that contain a lot of carbohydrates (soft drinks, juice, tea or coffee with a lot of sugar).

People with polyphagia tend to binge, sometimes even at night. The subject may indulge in continuous snacking throughout the day. However, unlike bulimia, patients do not engage in self-induced vomiting.

Excessive hunger

The main symptom of polyphagia is excessive hunger that does not go away simply by eating more food or eating more regularly than normal. If you are concerned about a sudden increase in your appetite, you should consult your doctor. He or she will examine you to see if your hunger is a symptom of another medical condition.


Polyuria is caused by excess glucose being eliminated in the urine. The kidneys are no longer able to retain the glucose that they filter. The feeling of thirst, which is sometimes almost constant, is caused by loss of fluid caused by frequent and copious emissions of urine. Exaggerated appetite is caused by lack of energy which affects the tissues because they are unable to obtain the amounts of glucose they need.

Type 1 diabetes mellitus

In type 1 diabetes mellitus, the symptoms of polyphagia tend to appear more or less suddenly and are usually very intense. Therefore, people affected by this type of diabetes tend to become very thin if they do not receive proper treatment. They may also present a typical state of weakness.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus

In type 2 diabetes mellitus, the symptoms of overeating appear gradually. They can be difficult to diagnose, especially in obese people.

Treatment of polyphagia

Polyphagia is a symptom rather than a disorder in itself. Therefore, treatment involves curing the underlying disorder. The treatment of polyphagia thus varies depending on the cause.


For some people, excessive hunger or thirst is the first indication they have of an underlying physiological condition, so doctors may perform blood tests and other tests to rule out potential health problems.

Overeating Remedies
Medications can help fight diseases that cause polyphagia. They can help completely eliminate symptoms.

Some patients may need hospital treatment or medical attention if bulimia has caused health problems.


If a doctor cannot locate the underlying physical cause, he or she may refer the patient to a mental health specialist. The treatment of overeating aims to stabilize the patient, combat the stress factors that contribute to bulimia and work on their body image.

When polyphagia occurs as a result of depression, anxiety, or other mental conditions, psychotherapists focus on treating the underlying factors that cause the polyphagia rather than the symptom itself.

Psychotherapy is a treatment of choice for polyphagia. Making the patient aware is one of the ways used. Since many actions underlying the disease are unconscious, the subject can become aware of their own difficulties and try to eliminate them.

The doctor can also help the patient overcome their anxiety, as there is often a feeling of uncontrollable anxiety at the root of the problem. Psychotherapy thus helps the subject to overcome situations that create tension.

Restoring confidence through cognitive behavioral therapy is another avenue. The individual regains self-confidence. He learns to relate better to others and to ease tensions in those around him. He can thus get rid of obsessive behaviors regarding nutrition.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy can also help the patient get rid of the feeling of shame that goes hand in hand with this disorder. By becoming more aware of his own difficulties, he will regain confidence in himself.

Healthy eating

A healthy diet and exercise program can also help. This can control hunger, but also benefit underlying conditions.