Disease: Emotional Eating

    Emotional eating facts

    • Emotional eating is the tendency of its sufferers to respond to stress by eating often high-carbohydrate, high-calorie foods with low nutritional value.
    • The quantity of food that is consumed is the primary difference between emotional eating and binge eating.
    • Like most emotional symptoms, emotional eating is thought to be the result of a number of factors rather than one single cause.
    • There are a number of potential warning signs for emotional eating.
    • Health professionals tend to assess emotional eating by screening for physical and mental-health issues.
    • Overcoming emotional eating tends to involve teaching the sufferer healthier ways to view food and develop better eating habits, recognize their triggers for engaging in this behavior, and develop appropriate ways to prevent and alleviate stress.
    • When untreated, emotional overeating can cause obesity, problems with weight loss, and even lead to food addiction.
    • Reducing stress, using food as sustenance rather than a way to solve problems, and using constructive ways to handle emotions can help to prevent emotional eating.

    What is emotional eating?

    Emotional eating is the tendency of its sufferers to respond to stress by eating, even when not hungry, often high-calorie or high-carbohydrate foods that have minimal nutritional value. The foods that emotional eaters crave are often referred to as comfort foods, like ice cream, cookies, chocolate, chips, French fries, pizza, and other junk foods. About 40% of people tend to eat more when stressed, while about 40% eat less and 20% experience no change in the amount of food they eat when exposed to stress.

    While emotional eating can be a symptom of what mental-health professionals call atypical depression, many people who do not have clinical depression or any other mental-health issue engage in this behavior in response to momentary or chronic stress. This behavior is highly common and is significant since it can interfere with maintaining a healthy diet and contribute to obesity.

    What is the difference between emotional eating and binge eating?

    The primary difference between emotional eating and binge eating involves the amount of food that is consumed. While both may involve a sense of trouble controlling a craving for food, emotional eating may involve consuming from moderate to great amounts of food and may be the only symptom that a person has or be part of an emotional illness like depression, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder is a distinctive mental illness that is characterized by recurrent episodes of compulsive overeating, in that affected people eat an amount of food that is significantly larger than that which most people eat in a distinct period of time.

    What are causes, triggers, or risk factors for emotional eating?

    Like most emotional symptoms, emotional eating is thought to be the result of a number of factors rather than one single cause. Some research is consistent with girls and women being at higher risk of for eating disorders, showing they are at higher risk for emotional eating. However, other research indicates that in some populations, men are more likely to eat in response to depression or anger, and women were more likely to eat excessively in response to failing a diet.

    It is thought that the increase in the hormone cortisol that is one of the body's responses to stress is similar to the medication prednisone in its effects. Specifically, both tend to trigger the body's stress (fight or flight) response, including increased heart and breathing rate, blood flow to muscles, and visual acuity. Part of the stress response often includes increased appetite to supply the body with the fuel it needs to fight or flee, resulting in cravings for so-called comfort foods. People who have been subjected to chronic rather than momentary stress (like job, school, or family stress, exposure to crime or abuse) are at risk for having chronically high levels of cortisol in their bodies, contributing to developing chronic emotional-eating patterns.

    Psychologically, people who tend to connect food with comfort, power, or for any other reasons than providing fuel to their body can be prone to emotional eating. They may eat to fill an emotional void, when physically full, and engage in mindless eating. Some people whose emotions cause them to eat may have been raised to connect food with feelings instead of sustenance, particularly if food was scarce or often used a reward or punishment, or as a substitute for emotional intimacy.

    What are warning signs of emotional eating?

    Warning signs for emotional eating include a tendency to feel hunger intensely and all of a sudden, rather than gradually as occurs with a true physical need to eat that is caused by an empty stomach. Emotional eaters tend to crave junk foods rather than seeking to eat balanced meals and the urge to eat is usually preceded by stress or an uncomfortable emotion of some kind, like boredom, sadness, anger, guilt, or frustration. Another hallmark of emotional eating is that the sufferer often feels guilty for what they have eaten.

    How do physicians diagnose emotional eating?

    Health professionals tend to assess emotional eating by first ensuring that the sufferer has had a physical examination and lab work to ensure that the symptom is not part of some genetic or other medical condition like Prader-Willi Syndrome. As part of the mental-health aspect of the examination, the sufferer may be asked a series of questions from a standardized questionnaire or self-test to help assess the presence of emotional eating. Thorough exploration for any history or presence of mental-health symptoms will be conducted such that emotional eating can be distinguished from a distinct eating disorder like bulimia, binge eating disorder, or pica. A mental-health professional will also explore whether other forms of mental illness are present.

    What is the treatment for emotional eating?

    Overcoming emotional eating tends to involve teaching the sufferer healthier ways to view food and develop better eating habits, recognize their triggers for engaging in this behavior, and develop appropriate ways to prevent and alleviate stress.

    An important step in managing stress is exercise, since regular physical activity tends to dampen the production of stress chemicals, even leading to a decrease in depression, anxiety, and insomnia in addition to decreasing the tendency to engage in emotional eating.

    Engaging in meditation and other relaxation techniques is also a powerful way to manage stress and therefore decrease emotional eating. Therefore, engaging in one or two meditation sessions a day can have lasting beneficial effects on health, even decreasing high blood pressure and heart rate.

    Refraining from drug use and consuming no more than moderate amounts of alcohol are other important ways to successfully manage stress since many of these substances heighten the body's response to stress. Also, indulging in use of those substances often prevents the person from facing their problems directly so they are not able to develop effective ways to cope with or eliminate the stress.

    Other lifestyle changes that can decrease stress include taking breaks at home and at work. Refrain from over-scheduling yourself. Learn to recognize and respond to your stress triggers. Take regular days off at intervals that you are right for you. Structure your life to achieve a comfortable way to respond to the unexpected.

    For those who may need help dealing with stress, stress-management counseling in the form of individual or group therapy can be very useful. Stress counseling and group therapy have proven to reduce stress symptoms and improve overall health.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective as part of treatment for combating emotional eating. This approach helps to alleviate stress by helping the individual change his or her way of thinking about certain issues. In CBT, the therapist uses three techniques to accomplish these goals:

    • Didactic component: This phase helps to set up positive expectations for therapy and promote the person's cooperation with the treatment process.
    • Cognitive component: This helps to identify the thoughts and assumptions that influence the individual's behaviors, particularly those that may predispose the sufferer to emotional eating. A variation of the cognitive component of therapy is teaching mindfulness, paying nonjudgmental attention to the present moment. Mindfulness involves thinking more reflectively, increasing one's emotional awareness, and tends to lead to an increased ability to separate one's emotions from hunger.
    • Behavioral component: This employs behavior-modification techniques to teach the person more effective strategies for dealing with problems.

    If stress produces a full-blown psychiatric problem, like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), clinical depression, or anxiety disorders, then psychotropic medications, particularly the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can be extremely useful. Examples of SSRIs include sertraline, (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa), or escitalopram (Lexapro).

    Overeaters' Anonymous is a longstanding self-help group that can be an important resource for developing healthier ways to view food and recognizing and coping with triggers for engaging in emotional eating. Nutritionists, therapists, and other support groups can be other invaluable resources.

    What is the difference between emotional eating and binge eating?

    The primary difference between emotional eating and binge eating involves the amount of food that is consumed. While both may involve a sense of trouble controlling a craving for food, emotional eating may involve consuming from moderate to great amounts of food and may be the only symptom that a person has or be part of an emotional illness like depression, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder is a distinctive mental illness that is characterized by recurrent episodes of compulsive overeating, in that affected people eat an amount of food that is significantly larger than that which most people eat in a distinct period of time.

    What are causes, triggers, or risk factors for emotional eating?

    Like most emotional symptoms, emotional eating is thought to be the result of a number of factors rather than one single cause. Some research is consistent with girls and women being at higher risk of for eating disorders, showing they are at higher risk for emotional eating. However, other research indicates that in some populations, men are more likely to eat in response to depression or anger, and women were more likely to eat excessively in response to failing a diet.

    It is thought that the increase in the hormone cortisol that is one of the body's responses to stress is similar to the medication prednisone in its effects. Specifically, both tend to trigger the body's stress (fight or flight) response, including increased heart and breathing rate, blood flow to muscles, and visual acuity. Part of the stress response often includes increased appetite to supply the body with the fuel it needs to fight or flee, resulting in cravings for so-called comfort foods. People who have been subjected to chronic rather than momentary stress (like job, school, or family stress, exposure to crime or abuse) are at risk for having chronically high levels of cortisol in their bodies, contributing to developing chronic emotional-eating patterns.

    Psychologically, people who tend to connect food with comfort, power, or for any other reasons than providing fuel to their body can be prone to emotional eating. They may eat to fill an emotional void, when physically full, and engage in mindless eating. Some people whose emotions cause them to eat may have been raised to connect food with feelings instead of sustenance, particularly if food was scarce or often used a reward or punishment, or as a substitute for emotional intimacy.

    What are warning signs of emotional eating?

    Warning signs for emotional eating include a tendency to feel hunger intensely and all of a sudden, rather than gradually as occurs with a true physical need to eat that is caused by an empty stomach. Emotional eaters tend to crave junk foods rather than seeking to eat balanced meals and the urge to eat is usually preceded by stress or an uncomfortable emotion of some kind, like boredom, sadness, anger, guilt, or frustration. Another hallmark of emotional eating is that the sufferer often feels guilty for what they have eaten.

    How do physicians diagnose emotional eating?

    Health professionals tend to assess emotional eating by first ensuring that the sufferer has had a physical examination and lab work to ensure that the symptom is not part of some genetic or other medical condition like Prader-Willi Syndrome. As part of the mental-health aspect of the examination, the sufferer may be asked a series of questions from a standardized questionnaire or self-test to help assess the presence of emotional eating. Thorough exploration for any history or presence of mental-health symptoms will be conducted such that emotional eating can be distinguished from a distinct eating disorder like bulimia, binge eating disorder, or pica. A mental-health professional will also explore whether other forms of mental illness are present.

    What is the treatment for emotional eating?

    Overcoming emotional eating tends to involve teaching the sufferer healthier ways to view food and develop better eating habits, recognize their triggers for engaging in this behavior, and develop appropriate ways to prevent and alleviate stress.

    An important step in managing stress is exercise, since regular physical activity tends to dampen the production of stress chemicals, even leading to a decrease in depression, anxiety, and insomnia in addition to decreasing the tendency to engage in emotional eating.

    Engaging in meditation and other relaxation techniques is also a powerful way to manage stress and therefore decrease emotional eating. Therefore, engaging in one or two meditation sessions a day can have lasting beneficial effects on health, even decreasing high blood pressure and heart rate.

    Refraining from drug use and consuming no more than moderate amounts of alcohol are other important ways to successfully manage stress since many of these substances heighten the body's response to stress. Also, indulging in use of those substances often prevents the person from facing their problems directly so they are not able to develop effective ways to cope with or eliminate the stress.

    Other lifestyle changes that can decrease stress include taking breaks at home and at work. Refrain from over-scheduling yourself. Learn to recognize and respond to your stress triggers. Take regular days off at intervals that you are right for you. Structure your life to achieve a comfortable way to respond to the unexpected.

    For those who may need help dealing with stress, stress-management counseling in the form of individual or group therapy can be very useful. Stress counseling and group therapy have proven to reduce stress symptoms and improve overall health.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective as part of treatment for combating emotional eating. This approach helps to alleviate stress by helping the individual change his or her way of thinking about certain issues. In CBT, the therapist uses three techniques to accomplish these goals:

    • Didactic component: This phase helps to set up positive expectations for therapy and promote the person's cooperation with the treatment process.
    • Cognitive component: This helps to identify the thoughts and assumptions that influence the individual's behaviors, particularly those that may predispose the sufferer to emotional eating. A variation of the cognitive component of therapy is teaching mindfulness, paying nonjudgmental attention to the present moment. Mindfulness involves thinking more reflectively, increasing one's emotional awareness, and tends to lead to an increased ability to separate one's emotions from hunger.
    • Behavioral component: This employs behavior-modification techniques to teach the person more effective strategies for dealing with problems.

    If stress produces a full-blown psychiatric problem, like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), clinical depression, or anxiety disorders, then psychotropic medications, particularly the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can be extremely useful. Examples of SSRIs include sertraline, (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa), or escitalopram (Lexapro).

    Overeaters' Anonymous is a longstanding self-help group that can be an important resource for developing healthier ways to view food and recognizing and coping with triggers for engaging in emotional eating. Nutritionists, therapists, and other support groups can be other invaluable resources.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

    Overcoming emotional eating tends to involve teaching the sufferer healthier ways to view food and develop better eating habits, recognize their triggers for engaging in this behavior, and develop appropriate ways to prevent and alleviate stress.

    An important step in managing stress is exercise, since regular physical activity tends to dampen the production of stress chemicals, even leading to a decrease in depression, anxiety, and insomnia in addition to decreasing the tendency to engage in emotional eating.

    Engaging in meditation and other relaxation techniques is also a powerful way to manage stress and therefore decrease emotional eating. Therefore, engaging in one or two meditation sessions a day can have lasting beneficial effects on health, even decreasing high blood pressure and heart rate.

    Refraining from drug use and consuming no more than moderate amounts of alcohol are other important ways to successfully manage stress since many of these substances heighten the body's response to stress. Also, indulging in use of those substances often prevents the person from facing their problems directly so they are not able to develop effective ways to cope with or eliminate the stress.

    Other lifestyle changes that can decrease stress include taking breaks at home and at work. Refrain from over-scheduling yourself. Learn to recognize and respond to your stress triggers. Take regular days off at intervals that you are right for you. Structure your life to achieve a comfortable way to respond to the unexpected.

    For those who may need help dealing with stress, stress-management counseling in the form of individual or group therapy can be very useful. Stress counseling and group therapy have proven to reduce stress symptoms and improve overall health.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective as part of treatment for combating emotional eating. This approach helps to alleviate stress by helping the individual change his or her way of thinking about certain issues. In CBT, the therapist uses three techniques to accomplish these goals:

    • Didactic component: This phase helps to set up positive expectations for therapy and promote the person's cooperation with the treatment process.
    • Cognitive component: This helps to identify the thoughts and assumptions that influence the individual's behaviors, particularly those that may predispose the sufferer to emotional eating. A variation of the cognitive component of therapy is teaching mindfulness, paying nonjudgmental attention to the present moment. Mindfulness involves thinking more reflectively, increasing one's emotional awareness, and tends to lead to an increased ability to separate one's emotions from hunger.
    • Behavioral component: This employs behavior-modification techniques to teach the person more effective strategies for dealing with problems.

    If stress produces a full-blown psychiatric problem, like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), clinical depression, or anxiety disorders, then psychotropic medications, particularly the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can be extremely useful. Examples of SSRIs include sertraline, (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa), or escitalopram (Lexapro).

    Overeaters' Anonymous is a longstanding self-help group that can be an important resource for developing healthier ways to view food and recognizing and coping with triggers for engaging in emotional eating. Nutritionists, therapists, and other support groups can be other invaluable resources.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

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