A University of Minnesota School of Public Health study suggests post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not only an important cause of psychological suffering, but also a potential risk factor for problematic eating behaviors. Research found that women who reported a history of severe PTSD symptoms were more than twice as likely as those without PTSD symptoms to meet criteria for food addiction.
Study findings were recently published in JAMA Psychiatry.
The cross-sectional analysis of more than 49,000 women looked to determine if the number of lifetime PTSD symptoms reported on a screening questionnaire was associated with prevalence of food addiction. The study authors found that the more PTSD symptoms women reported, the more likely they were to meet criteria for food addiction on the Yale Food Addiction Scale.
“The Yale Food Addiction Scale assesses perceived dependence on food in much the same way as one might screen for drug or alcohol dependency,” said Dr. Susan Mason, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the School of Public Health. “Although food addiction is not considered a psychiatric diagnosis, the concept may be helpful in identifying a reliance on food to cope with psychological distress.”
Select key findings:
“Our findings need to be replicated longitudinally before we will know whether PTSD precedes food addiction, but our results suggest that interrupting the pathway from PTSD to obesity may require psychological and behavioral interventions that address dependence on food as a response to PTSD,” said Dr. Mason.