Causes of Emotional Eating and Matched Treatment of Obesity

Curr Diab Rep. 2018 Apr 25;18(6):35. doi: 10.1007/s11892-018-1000-x.


Purpose of the review: Eating in response to negative emotions (EE) may be an explanatory factor of the weight regain of many dieters. This narrative review presents evidence on possible causes of EE and the association of EE with depression and obesity and discusses implications of these findings for the treatment of obesity.

Recent findings: Possible causes of EE are high dietary restraint, poor interoceptive awareness, alexithymia, emotion dysregulation and a reversed hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) stress axis. EE may be the outcome of inadequate parenting or depressive feelings in interaction with genetic susceptibility. There is also robust evidence that EE is a mediator between depression and obesity. The association of EE with depression and poor emotion regulation skills suggests that the treatment of obese people with high EE should not focus on calorie-restricted diets but on emotion regulation skills. The DEBQ (Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire) enables such a matched treatment of obesity.

Keywords: Causes; DEBQ; Depression; Emotional eating; Matched treatment; Obesity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression / psychology
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Humans
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires