Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Link Between Trauma and Binge Eating


By Barbara Brody
WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD

It’s normal for past experiences to affect the way you act or feel. What you've done, seen, or lived through can even impact your eating habits -- in both good and bad ways. For example, you might happily host a weekly Sunday dinner because that’s what your mom did. Or, you might often overeat because you grew up watching other family members do so.

Sometimes, a very bad (traumatic) past event causes a person to get an eating disorder, like binge eating. For years, scientists have been reporting a link between bingeing and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can happen after you’ve seen or gone through a violent or life-threatening event. Examples are:

  • Physical or sexual abuse or assault
  • Life-threatening accident
  • Violent or accidental death of a loved one
  • Terrorism or war
  • Seeing a serious crime such as a murder or rape

About 1 in 4 people who binge eat have PTSD.

"People with PTSD have such a hard time focusing on the present and future because they are preoccupied with traumatic memories or trying to avoid traumatic reminders," says Rachel Yehuda, PhD. She’s the director of the traumatic stress studies division at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. "Sometimes that means they don't plan well for future meals, and [as a result], they may get very hungry and overeat or overeat compulsively."

How PTSD Affects Binges

Scientists don't yet know exactly how PTSD and binge eating are linked in the body. Both conditions are related to problems with stress hormones and mood-boosting brain chemicals, though, research shows. Your genes might also determine whether or not you get these two disorders.

Most of the time, the trauma (which leads to PTSD) comes first and the binge eating comes later. Scientists think people binge eat to “escape” the painful memories related to the traumatic event.

"People with binge eating disorder often don't understand what they're feeling or why,” says Timothy Brewerton, MD. He's the executive medical director of The Hearth Center for Eating Disorders in Columbia, S.C. “They're too busy compulsively trying to numb the pain with food."

source : The Link Between Trauma and Binge Eating

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