Food addiction and increased obesity risk have been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly in women, a new study suggests.
While previous studies have linked post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to a higher obesity risk, researchers have found that women with severe PTSD were twice as likely to have a food addiction, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry.
Researchers analyzed questionnaires from 49,408 women, part of the Nurses’ Health Study II and aged 25-42 when the study began in 1989. The participants completed a questionnaire in 2008 which included stating any traumatic experiences or events as well as any symptoms of PTSD.
The study participants were evaluated for food addiction symptoms such as eating when no longer hungry four or more times each week, feeling the need to eat higher amounts of food to reduce stress at any point, and worrying about reducing food intake four or more times a week.
The researchers found that there was a higher incidence of food addiction in the participants who had a higher number of symptoms of PTSD. The women who had 6-7 symptoms had an 18% occurrence of food addiction while the women who had no symptoms of PTSD had only 6%. Age was also a factor, with the earlier the age at which PTSD symptoms occurred, the stronger the link to food addiction.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects about 7.7 million adults in the US, according to the National Institute of Mental Health and is an anxiety disorder stemming from stressful and traumatic events in one’s life. PTSD can affect people of all ages with women more likely to develop the disorder than men. Those affected can include veterans of war, survivors of physical and sexual assault and abuse, as well as natural disasters.