By Deborah Fields, BSc (Hons), PgDip, MCIPR
Emotional overeating is when a person eats more than they need due to negative feelings that they are experiencing. If this type of eating becomes a regular pattern, it may result in other negative consequences in the patient.
The person may view overeating as a way of overcoming negative feelings. The food that tends to be consumed usually has a high calorie content such as high levels of carbohydrates of increased level or fats.
Triggers of emotional overeating
The types of negative emotions that can lead to this kind of behavior in some people can include stress, sadness, conflicts and fear. These feelings can be triggered as a result of challenges such as financial difficulties and disputes with other people. Even a lack of energy and work stress can bring this behavior on. This is in contrast to some people who turn to food deprivation when confronted by any kind of negative situation.
Individuals who are affected by this view see eating food as a pleasurable alternative to dealing with the problems that are causing their emotions. They view the food as a way of escaping from the pain they are feeling.
A contributory factor to emotional overeating developing is if the person is already on another diet where they are already depriving themselves of calories. This can make the individual more prone to succumbing to emotional overeating.
Risks of emotional overeating
Emotional overeating can transform into another kind of eating disorder such as bulimia where a patient will binge eat and then purge the body of the excessive food eaten, by inducing vomiting or taking laxatives or the condition of anorexia nervosa where a patient will restrict their calorie intake or over-exercise to become much thinner. There is also the potential that the person will develop binge eating disorder and consume high levels of food on a regular basis leading to sudden high rises of blood sugar.
Researchers have suggested that emotional overeating can actually make the individual feel much worse about themselves than they initially did, compounding an already negative self-image.
As with other types of overeating, there is a chance that the person will develop another condition such as high blood pressure which can leave them vulnerable to a stroke or a heart attack. High cholesterol can also develop.
Treatment for the condition
Patients with the condition can benefit from therapy which helps them to confront their own personal issues instead of avoiding them. If they can learn to deal with issues when they arise, they can move towards solving the problem rather than relying on food to avoid it.
Reviewed by Yolanda Smith, BPharm
Last Updated: May 25, 2016