PTSD and Food Addiction Go Hand-in-Hand for Women

By Bryan Le 09/18/14

Researchers have found the stronger the PTSD, the more likely a woman will suffer from eating addiction.


Stress eating is real. A new study finds that women who suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are twice as likely to be addicted to food. Researchers note that this doesn't necessarily mean that PTSD and food addiction have a causal relationship, but it does demonstrate a link between PTSD and obesity.

“I’d really like the message to come across that people bring a whole lot of history to their eating behaviors,” said Susan Mason, the study's lead author. She hopes to educate doctors about the link between eating disorders and PTSD.  “Clinicians may be able to look for that information to deliver better care."

PTSD sufferers, whose behaviors can be dictated by their reliving, avoiding or attempting to numb themselves in response to traumatic events, make up about 7% of Americans, most of whom are women. Other studies have found that those who suffered from childhood abuse are more likely to suffer from food addiction later in life, and the use of food to cope with that stress is likely to end in obesity, the researchers said.

Researchers polled 49,408 female nurses about symptoms of PTSD and food addiction. Results showed that four out of five nurses reported experiencing a traumatic event during their life, while two out of three experienced a lifelong symptom of PTSD. Eight percent of the nurses met the criteria for food addiction. The researchers also found that women who showed six to seven PTSD symptoms were twice as likely to suffer from food addiction as someone who did not, and that the link between PTSD and food addiction was stronger if the subject had suffered from childhood abuse.

“I just want this to add to a lot of research that people’s weight status is not just a symptom of willpower and education,” Mason said. “There may be psychological factors in play too.”

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter