Increased appetite

Alternative names
Hyperphagia; Appetite - increased; Hunger; Excessive hunger; Polyphagia

Hunger is a normal desire for food. Hyperphagia and polyphagia refer to being focused only on eating (gluttony), or eating excessively before feeling full. These can be symptoms of various disorders.

Both psychological and endocrine gland disorders can cause polyphagia, which is fairly common.

Polyphagia can be intermittent or persistent, depending on the cause. It may or may not result in weight gain.

Common Causes

  • Anxiety  
  • Premenstrual syndrome  
  • Bulimia (most common in women between ages 18 and 30 years old)  
  • Diabetes mellitus  
  • Gestational diabetes  
  • Graves’ disease  
  • Hyperthyroidism  
  • Hypoglycemia  
  • Insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM)  
  • Noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM)  
  • Drugs - such as corticosteroids, cyproheptadine, and tricyclic antidepressants

Home Care
Emotional support, and in some cases psychological counseling, are recommended.

For drugs that cause increased appetite and weight gain, ask your health care provider if you can decrease the dosage or discontinue the medication. CONSULT WITH YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER BEFORE CHANGING MEDICATIONS.

Call your health care provider if

  • There is an unexplained, persistent increase in appetite.  
  • Other unexplained symptoms accompany the problem.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office
A history will be obtained (with emphasis on eating habits) and a physical examination performed. Once determined, the underlying cause will be treated.

Medical history questions documenting increased appetite in detail may include:

  • Eating habits       o Have you changed your eating habits?       o Have you begun dieting?       o Do you have concerns about your weight?       o What do you eat in a typical day?       o How much do you eat?  
  • Medication       o What medications are you taking?       o Are you taking any new medications, or have you changed the dose of your medications?       o Do you use any illicit drugs? If so, what?  
  • Time pattern       o Does the hunger occur during the sleep period?       o Does the hunger seem to occur in a pattern related to your menstrual cycle?  
  • Other       o What other symptoms are occurring at the same time?       o Have you noticed an increase in anxiety?       o Do you have frequent urination?       o Is there increased heart rate?       o Do you have palpitations?       o Is there an increase in thirst?       o Have you had an unintentional weight gain?       o Is there intentional or unintentional vomiting?

The physical examination will probably include a general physical examination and a measurement of the body weight. Psychological evaluation may also be performed in some cases.

Diagnostic tests that may be performed are:

  • Blood tests including a chemistry profile  
  • Tests for suspected physical causes (such as thyroid function tests)

You may want to add a diagnosis related to increased appetite to your personal medical record.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Janet G. Derge, M.D.

Medical Encyclopedia

  A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | 0-9

All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.