It is estimated that 7.7 million adults in the U.S. suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder…
Women With PTSD Susceptible to Food Addiction
Both post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and food addiction are serious mental health issues that affect many women. We now know that women who struggle with PTSD, or who at least display some of the symptoms of the disorder, are more vulnerable to becoming dependent on food or developing a food addiction. As researchers learn more about the connection, they hope to develop treatment strategies that will teach women better ways of coping with stress and other negative emotions and reduce the incidence of binge eating and obesity.
PTSD and Weight
Earlier studies already linked the occurrence of PTSD in women to a greater risk for obesity. In one study, for instance, women were assessed for symptoms of PTSD. The researchers also calculated the BMI, or body mass index, for each woman. They followed up with the participants over a decade later. The findings showed that women with at least four symptoms of PTSD had a significantly greater increase in BMI, which is an important measure of being overweight or obese.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition that can affect both men and women, but it occurs as the result of a traumatic event. Some of the symptoms the women in the study experienced included having flashbacks or dreams about the traumatic event, being unable to concentrate or enjoy activities, avoiding reminders of the event, startling easily or engaging in self-destructive behaviors.
PTSD and Food Addiction
Obesity and weight gain are often the result of having a food addiction. Another term for food addiction is binge eating, which means eating well past the point of being full and even getting sick from eating too much. A new study finds a connection between having the symptoms of PTSD and being vulnerable to a food addiction or binge eating disorder.
Women in the study, numbering nearly 50,000, filled out a questionnaire that included information about PTSD symptoms and eating habits. The more symptoms of PTSD a woman had, the more likely she was to have a food addiction. Among the women with no trauma and no symptoms of PTSD, about 6 percent had signs of a food addiction. Among the women with PTSD symptoms, that percentage rose to 18.
The research that makes this connection between food addiction, PTSD and obesity is important for several reasons. One reason is that it illustrates that food addiction is real and eating too much and gaining weight is not simply a matter of willpower or being lazy. Not every person who is overweight has the power to stop eating and to take control without help. There are strong psychological factors at work for many people struggling with weight. PTSD symptoms represent just one possible factor for women.
The results are also important in that they can help guide researchers to do further work to untangle the connections between obesity and other psychological disorders. Further research can now also focus on treatment strategies as well as prevention. Obesity is a serious health problem for individuals, but it is also a matter of public health. Women struggling with PTSD could benefit from learning coping strategies that guide them to deal with stress and fear in healthy ways, instead of by eating.
Both PTSD and food addiction are serious issues for many women. Food addiction often leads to obesity, which causes a number of health problems. If researchers can continue to figure out how psychological factors play a role in eating and obesity, more women can be effectively treated.