Compulsive Eating, Emotions, and Stress

Published by Amanda Lynn Helman on

Acute or chronic stress may change an individual’s eating patterns due to psychological and emotional stressors (Cameron, Maguire, & McCormack, 2011).  Survivors of sexual trauma may have more psychological and physical stress leading to an increase in food intake that is used as a coping skill. (Connors & Morse, 2006)

Binge eating is often thought of as a lack of self-discipline if one provides judgment without knowing a person’s history leading to this behavior. In the first blog about binge eating, research has shown that women and men who have experienced sexual abuse are more likely to binge eat without purging Cameron et al., 2011).

The ongoing cycle of binge eating can lead to preventing women and men from dealing with the painful emotions from the negative event or may, in fact, numb the event.

Research has shown that many individuals who binge are trying to numb the pain. The avoidance of pain can lead to a positive feeling and will result in them continuing this pattern until they deal with the underlying pain.

Unfortunately, just like addictive behaviors, men and women may continue to engage in the binge eating because of the positive feelings they experience. Often, this act may be a time that women and men dissociate and almost are not feeling in their body during this act.

The most challenging concern about binge eating without purging is that the person may feel good during the binge but eventually the emotions subside.

If the person notices weight gain, it may result in them going from experiencing positive feelings to feeling depression or a shift in their mood. This can lead to what seems to be an ongoing cycle of hopelessness.

Research does show that people who experience types of eating disorders may have suicidal thoughts. The thoughts often result from the discomfort of the eating pattern mixed with the painful feelings that are still in hiding.

Cameron, M. J., Maguire, R.W., & McCormack, J. (2011). Stress-induced binge eating: A behavior analytic approach to assessment and intervention. Journal of Adult Development, 18, J81-84. DOI 10:10007/s10804-010-9112-9

Connors, M. E., & Morse, W. (2006). Sexual abuse and eating disorders: A review. International Journal of Eating Disorder, 13, 1–11.

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Categories: Eating Disorders

Amanda Lynn Helman

Hi. I'm Amanda Helman, Ph.D. I promote body, mind, soul wellness for children, youth, and adults. Connect with me here or on our Facebook page Amanda Helman-Author and Speaker.