What Is Polyphagia?

Does your stomach grumble even after you’ve just eaten? Ever felt like you can’t eat enough even for one person? You might be suffering from a legit medical condition. Detailed below are all the causes and treatment options for people suffering from polyphagia.

Polyphagia Picture 1

Polyphagia (also called hyperphagia) is a medical condition that exhibits abnormality in a person’s strong desire to eat continuously. It causes increased appetite and excessive hunger which does not go away no matter what or how much you eat. Patients thereby overeat yet do not achieve satiety due to the stimulated appetite.

Polyphagia on its own is not considered a fully fledged disease but rather as a symptom of several diseases that cause it.


  • Insatiable appetite – eating and not feeling full.
  • Excessive consumption of food.
  • Obesity or weight gain due to increased food consumption


Polyphagia has many causes which fall into two main categories. There are physical or biological factors that cause the body not to receive enough nutrients or need more ‘fuel’ in the form of food.

Otherwise, hormonal or genetic disorders hinder the signals that usually tell the body its full and they aren’t sent or received. In some cases it can also be caused by psychological disorders or lifestyle choices.


Diabetes affects the way the body processes sugar from food resulting from either lack of sufficient insulin or development of resistance to insulin.

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is an aspect of diabetes where cells remain constantly starved because no matter the amount or type of food one eats, the sugar is not efficiently converted into glucose that provides cells with energy. Hence amongst other side effects one constantly feels hungry.


It caused by an enlarged and overactive thyroid gland. The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located in the neck. A failure in the thyroid might result in Polyphagia as it function is to produce hormones which control the rate all organs in the body.


People have different rates of metabolism and hence they feel hungry after different durations. Strenuous physical activity can induce short term polyphagia due to the increased metabolic rate in a bid to increase food consumption and energy supply to the tissues to prevent fatigue.


Pregnant women experience a spike in appetite due to the hormonal changes increased demand for nutrients by the fetus.

Psychological disorders

Psychological disorders can cause polyphagia as coping mechanism ir due to hormonal changes depending on the root cause. e.g. anxiety, depression or stress

Type of medicine

Some drugs stimulate the appetite beyond the usual levels this include antihistamines, anti-depressants, steroids, some diabetic and anti psychotic drugs.

Prader-Willi Syndrome

Is a genetic disorder leading malfunction of the hypothalamus and manifests at around age two. It causes polyphagia amongst other symptoms most notably child obesity.

Klein-Levin Syndrome

Also called the Sleeping Beauty Syndrome this genetic disorder mainly affects adolescent males.

Lifestyle choices

Choice of diet, insomnia, overwork and abuse of drugs that increase metabolism e.g. marijuana could cause polyphagia.


Polyphagia does not often occur without other symptoms. The underlying cause of polyphagia is diagnosed depending on the accompanying symptoms.

  • Extreme thirst, fatigue, tingling or pain in hands and feet and blurry vision accompany polyphagia when it is caused by type 1 diabetes
  • If accompanied by a quick pulse, profuse sweating, muscle weakness, hand tremors, brittle hair, extreme thirst, nervousness and appearance of a goiter then it is caused by hyperthyroidism.
  • When polyphagia manifests alongside heart palpitations, diziness, slurring, sweating, pale skin, numbness in mouth and tongue, anxiety and shaking one is treated for hypoglycemia.
  • Psychotic episodes (hallucinations), headaches, insomnia, nervousness, depression are symptoms of polyphagia that is caused by psychological disorders like bulimia or chronic stress.
  • In women a missed period, frequent urination, nausea and sore or enlarged breasts point to polyphagia due to pregnancy.
  • Polyphagia that is accompanied by excessive sleeping is caused by the Klein-Levin Syndrome. Patients sleep for extended periods waking up only to eat. Symptoms come in waves and last for days or weeks before disappearing for months. When awake the person also suffers disorientation, lethargy, lack of emotional response and even hallucinations.
  • Polyphagia in children with almond shaped eyes, narrow temples, underdeveloped sexual organs and speech and motor disabilities is caused by the Willi-Prader Syndrome.



Since polyphagia is a symptom of various diseases and disorders, it cannot be treated until the underlying cause is properly diagnosed. A patient is treated for polyphagia in the following manner for the each of the following conditions.

  • Diabetes related Polyphagia is treated by a combination of monitoring blood sugar, diet adjustments and proper administration of insulin.
  • In genetic and hormonal disorders medicine is prescribed to alleviate the symptoms of the root disease.
  • Hyperthyroidism is treated with prescriptive medication. In some extreme cases radioactive therapy or surgery can be performed to excise part of the thyroid.
  • For cases such as pregnancy or metabolism one is advised to eat and wait for it to eventually pass.
  • If polyphagia is caused by new medication, one should address this with their doctor for alternative medication.
  • Genetic disorders causing polyphagia e.g. Kevin-Levin Syndrome and Willi-Prader Syndrome are managed from a young age to manage the symptoms.

If physicians cannot find the underlying cause of polyphagia, the patient is referred to a mental health expert who finds out if the condition is psychological.

  • Psychiatrists or psychotherapists attend to and prescribe medication to patients for polyphagia caused by underlying psychological issues. Certain therapy is applied to overcome psychological compulsive overeating and suppress the appetite.


Obesity is the leading complication arising from polyphagia especially in children.

Diseases such cardiac failure or high blood pressure for which obesity is a predisposing factor can also be caused in the long term by polyphagia.

Depression, anxiety, bulimia nervosa and other psychological disorders may arise from polyphagia.


Most of the underlying causes that cause polyphagia cannot be prevented, however positive lifestyle choices can protect one from risk factors hence lowering predisposition to conditions that cause polyphagia e.g. diabetes.

Reference List

  1. Polyphagia https://doctorshealthexpress.com/diabetes-tips/understandin
  2. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/polyphagia
  3. Why Am I always Hungry? https://webmd.com/diet/reasons-always-hungry
  4. https://symtomscausestreatment.com/polyphagia-symptoms-causes-treatment
  5. Polyphagia. https://goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/polyphagia

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