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I've never met a potato chip I didn't like. Actually, I've never met a potato chip that didn't call my name from behind the pantry door until I was forced to eat it and every one of its salty companions. So when I heard the phrase "carbohydrate addiction," I knew nutritionists were on to something. It turns out there are foods that can actually increase your hunger when you consume them, creating an escalating, recurring need for the very substances that intensify the problem.

The reality of carb addiction is accepted more widely in popular culture than in scientific communities. But most people can verify anecdotally that some food only makes them hungrier.

It seems to me that this phenomenon symbolizes much of what plagues the human condition. We drink liquids that dehydrate us. We buy objects that require us to buy more objects. We make some money, ratchet up our lifestyle in response, and find we need more income to sustain us. The harder we work, the more work there is to do. And the harder we play, the more elusive the fun. Ask anyone working in Hollywood special effects, or in extreme sports, or in the sex trade industry, and all will tell you the same thing: Yesterday's thrill is today's old news. We always need more.

One of the hallmarks of addiction is "tolerance"—the experience of requiring an ever-increasing amount of a particular substance or behavior in order for it to satiate us. We recognize that dynamic indisputably in chemical dependencies. But it's harder to spot for those of us who are compulsive about work, food, approval, ministry, possessions, intimacy, social media, security, or any other number of more culturally acceptable addictions.

Gerald May was a psychiatrist whose work with chemically addicted ...

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In the Magazine

December 2010

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