Women With PTSD Symptoms Linked With Higher Risk of Food Addiction

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Sad WomanWomen with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at nearly double the risk of becoming addicted to food compared to women without the disorder, according to a recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

The study didn’t find a clear causation between the two condition, but it could potentially explain a long-observed association between PTSD and obesity.

“I’d really like the message to come across that people bring a whole lot of history to their eating behaviors,” said Susan Mason, from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, the study’s lead author. Mason also emphasized the need for doctors to be aware of the link between problematic eating disorders and PTSD. “Clinicians may be able to look for information to deliver better care,” she wrote.

While PTSD is known for its psychological symptoms, PTSD is also linked to obesity and other conditions which stem from obesity such as heart disease and metabolic syndrome. One well documented example can be seen in individuals who have experienced child abuse.

These individuals are statistically more likely to experience food addiction, likely to help cope with psychological stress and trauma.

To evaluate whether women diagnosed with PTSD were at a heightened risk of food addiction, the team reviewed data on 49,408 female nurses who were asked about PTSD symptoms in 2008 and about food addiction in 2009.

The surveys showed that 80% of participants reported some level of exposure to a traumatic event during their lives, with approximately two-thirds of the women reporting at least on lifelong symptom of PTSD. About 8% also met the criterai for food addiction. Notably however, the researchers observed that a woman’s likelihood of having food addiction increased the number of PTSD symptoms reported.

Women with the highest number of PTSD symptoms exhibited more than double the risk of food addiction when compared to women with no history of traumatic experiences or symptoms of PTSD.

The study also found that the link is strongest when PTSD symptoms began at an early age, though there was no observable difference between differing types of trauma.

“I just want this to add to a lot of research that people’s weight status is not just a symptom of willpower and education,” Mason said. “There may be psychological factors in play too.”

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