Co authored by: Jamie Felzer
Do you ever stuff yourself beyond capacity because you are depressed, feeling inadequate or self conscious?
Are you a perfectionist with difficulty expressing and realizing your feelings, instead turning to food to take out your frustrations?
If so, you may be linking strong emotions and eating- taking your inability to effectively portray feelings and transforming them into feasts of food. This is a problem often experienced by food addicts.
Typically, when under stress or any other strong negative emotion, people tend to lose their appetite. Instead, those who eat emotionally have an increased appetite and an inability to gauge their eating as it relates to their physical state. Emotional eating does not necessarily involve binge eating, but instead, describes eating associated with particular feelings.
Researchers recently found that high amounts of emotional eating occurred when participants experienced anger, anxiety or depression. Emotional eating was a big factor for those with restrictive types of eating disorders (aka anorexia not bulimia or binging). However emotional eating occurred often with those who desperately wanted to become thin but still had a tendency to eat according to their emotions.
This leads to eating without actually being hungry but to fill other voids. Emotional eating involves many ups and downs of eating and those who engage in eating in this manner need help determining what behaviors are healthy and how to work on mind over matter as the saying goes.
Although the majority of cases involved people eating in response to negative emotions some people reported eating comfort foods in response to positive feelings as well. As stated in Addiction Inbox “In an unconscious effort to raise brain levels of serotonin and dopamine, drug users often discover that doughnuts, cakes, ice cream, soft drinks, and other sugar foods can lessen withdrawal symptoms” which is why many people chose to eat in hopes of combating these strong emotions.
The same pattern of eating can happen for non-users as well, but being aware is the first step to recovery.
Courbasson, Rizea, and Weiskopf , (2008). Emotional Eating among Individuals with Concurrent Eating and Substance Use Disorders. Journal of Mental Health and Addiction.