Emotional eating is not a type of eating disorder, but is common trait of those who have eating disorders – especially those who have binge eating disorder or night eating syndrome.
Emotional eating is the act of eating in response to an emotional trigger. When a person is depressed or sad because of an event and responds by overeating, or when a person is lonely and tries to fill an emotional void with food, the person is suffering from emotional eating.
Those who follow emotional eating patterns find it especially difficult to lose weight.
A study published in Obesity (October 2007), for example, found that those who practice emotional eating lost less weight in a behavioral weight loss program than those who did not have an emotional eating problem. The study also found that those with symptoms of emotional eating who succeed in losing weight are more likely to gain it back if they practice emotional eating.
Emotional Eating To Manage Mood
Emotional eating is an attempt to manage mood with food.
Serious emotional eaters obsess about food They rely on food to self-soothe. Those with emotional eating are typically distressed about their relationship with food, but don’t know how to stop. Emotional eating is compulsive and the emotional eater feels unable to control eating.
Some degree of emotional eating is normal. Food is typically a focus on celebrations, such as birthdays and weddings, and at funerals. Emotional eating is only a problem when it becomes a person’s central tactic for regulating mood.
Emotional eating is a coping strategy. When it results in imbalanced eating and regular overeating, an individual should take action to make behavioral changes. Emotional eating follows a continuum; if it is not stopped, it can lead to eating disorders, such as binge-eating disorder or night-eating syndrome.
When emotional eating leads to an eating disorder, co-occurring disorders, such as depression, are also common.
Emotional Eating And Binge-Eating Disorder
Binge eating is the most common eating disorder, affecting approximately two million Americans, according to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health. Men account for about 40% of binge eaters.
Binge eating disorder, like emotional eating, is characterized by uncontrollable, excessive eating, followed by feelings of shame and guilt. Individuals with binge-eating disorder are often obese or overweight and are susceptible to health problems caused by being overweight, including high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Binge eaters have frequent episodes of binging, during which they lose control over their eating. A binge episode is typically also an emotional eating episode, as it is typically triggered by an attempt to manage mood.
Treatment of binge eating and emotional eating incorporates medical consultation, behavioral therapy, nutrition therapy and exercise.
Emotional Eating and Night-Eating Syndrome
Night-eating syndrome, which may also be an emotional eating response, is characterized by frequently waking at night and snacking. Individuals with night-eating syndrome often eat the majority of their daily food in the evening, and frequently eat little or nothing in the morning.
Night-eating syndrome affects an estimated 1.5% of women and men, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The statistics are alarming, but the numbers may be even higher, as night-eating syndrome, like emotional eating, is often unrecognized and untreated. Individuals with night-eating syndrome are especially susceptible to depression, obesity, substance abuse, and other issues. Their productivity is often affected, as they are unable to maintain healthy sleeping and eating patterns, and they typically feel guilt, shame and a lack of control.
Treatment of night eating syndrome and emotional eating incorporates medical consultation, behavioral therapy, nutrition therapy and exercise.
If you suspect you or someone you know is affected by emotional eating, do something about it. Emotional eating can have a dramatic impact on a person. Seek professional counseling immediately. For help, contact Walden Behavioral Care at 781-647-6727 or online.