Background: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a risk factor for obesity, but the range of behaviors that contribute to this association are not known.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine associations between self-reported PTSD symptoms in 2007, with and without comorbid depression symptoms, and three problematic overeating behaviors in 2010, and to estimate the associations of PTSD-related overeating behaviors with obesity.
Methods: Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses included 7438 male (n = 2478) and female (n = 4960) participants from the Growing Up Today Study (mean age 22-29 years in 2010). Three eating behavior outcomes were assessed: binge eating (eating a large amount of food in a short period of time with loss of control), top quartile of coping-motivated eating (from the Motivations to Eat scale), and top quartile of disinhibited eating (from the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire).
Results: PTSD symptoms were associated with two- to threefold increases in binge eating and top-quartile coping-motivated eating; having ≥4 PTSD symptoms, relative to no PTSD symptoms, was associated with covariate-adjusted RRs of 2.7 (95% CI 2.1, 3.4) for binge eating, 2.1 (95% CI 1.9, 2.4) for the top quartile of coping-motivated eating, and 1.5 (95% CI 1.3, 1.7) for the top quartile of disinhibited eating. There was a trend toward PTSD symptoms in 2007 predicting new onset binge eating in 2010. Having depression symptoms comorbid with PTSD symptoms further increased risk of binge eating and coping-motivated eating. All eating behaviors were associated with obesity.
Conclusion: Clinicians treating patients with PTSD should know of potential comorbid problematic eating behaviors that may contribute to obesity.
Keywords: Binge eating; Depression; Eating behavior; Obesity; Posttraumatic stress disorder.