Eating style in seasonal affective disorder: who will gain weight in winter?

Compr Psychiatry. 1997 Mar-Apr;38(2):80-7. doi: 10.1016/s0010-440x(97)90085-7.


Patients with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) selectively eat more carbohydrates (CHO), particularly sweets but also starch-rich foods, during their depression in winter. The Dutch Eating Behaviour Questionnaire (DEBQ) was administered to female SAD patients, healthy female controls, and female medical students to determine their eating style, together with the modified Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire (SPAQ+). SAD patients showed higher values for "emotional" (EMOT) eating than the students, and these in turn had higher values than the controls. In comparison to controls, SAD patients and students head high values for the factor "external" (EXT) eating, but there was no difference between the groups with respect to "restraint" (REST) eating. This is in strong contrast to patients with bulimia and anorexia nervosa, who are high REST eaters, indicating that SAD patients do not have a similar eating disorder. Additional items showed that SAD patients selectively eat sweets under emotionally difficult conditions (when depressed, anxious, or lonely). Configural frequency analysis showed that seasonal body weight change (SBWC) is high in subjects with high EMOT and REST eating together with a high body mass index (BMI). This result is in accordance with the concept of disinhibition of dietary restraint in extreme emotional situations, e.g., the depressive state.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Caffeine / administration & dosage
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Discriminant Analysis
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / complications*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Sampling Studies
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Switzerland
  • Weight Gain*


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Caffeine