Posttraumatic stress disorder is associated with emotional eating

J Trauma Stress. 2013 Aug;26(4):521-5. doi: 10.1002/jts.21824. Epub 2013 Jul 25.


The present study investigated the relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and emotional eating in a sample of medically healthy and medication-free adults. Participants with PTSD (n = 44) and control participants free of lifetime psychiatric history (n = 49) completed a measure of emotional eating. Emotional eating is the tendency to eat or overeat in response to negative emotions. PTSD participants exhibited greater emotional eating than control participants (η(2) = .20) and emotional eating increased with higher PTSD symptom severity (R(2) = .11). Results supported the stress-eating-obesity model whereby emotional eating is a maladaptive response to stressors. Over time, this could lead to weight gain, particularly abdominal stores, and contribute to higher risk for comorbid medical disorders. Findings suggest the importance of future longitudinal research to understand whether emotional eating contributes to the high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in PTSD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Young Adult