Childhood Abuse May Lead to Food Addiction in Women

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Hooked on Food

A recent study found that women who have experienced sexual and physical abuse during childhood are nearly twice as likely to have food addiction issues in adulthood. Studies in the past have linked obesity as well as eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa to childhood abuse. This study looked specifically at the association between childhood abuse and binge eating and food obsession. The most disturbing part of the article describing the study is the statistic that more than a third of girls in this country are sexually and/or physically abused before they reach adulthood. The ramifications of this abuse go far beyond issues with food.  However, the impact of the abuse on a woman’s relationship with food was the focus of this study. Susan A. Mason, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston led the study and stated, “We are becoming more and more aware of the long-term health consequences associated with childhood abuse,” she said. “But we need a better understanding of the psychological reasons why some women who are victims of this abuse appear to overeat as a coping strategy.” Some of the psychological concepts surrounding food addiction include a disconnection between mind and body, self-punishment, and turning to food rather than sitting with uncomfortable feelings.

The parameters of the study defined food addiction as “clinically significant distress over eating” in addition to three or more of the following symptoms:

  • Eating when not hungry four or more times a week
  • Worrying about cutting down on certain foods four or more times per week
  • Feeling sluggish or fatigued from overeating two or more times per week
  • Experiencing negative feelings from overeating that interfere with other activities two or more times per week
  • Having physical withdrawal symptoms when cutting down on certain foods two or more times per week
  • Continuing to consume the same amount of food despite significant emotional or physical problems due to overeating at any frequency
  • Feeling the need to eat an increasing amount of food to reduce distress

There is help available for those dealing with food addiction issues as well as past abuse. Reach out to speak with a friend, family member or counselor.

Click here for further reading about the study.

 

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