Food Addiction
Squeal of Child Abuse

by Ren Chats

Comfort Eating Soothes Stress

Comfort Eating Soothes Stress

Children who experience physical or sexual abuse develop food addiction as adults.

Obesity has been linked to childhood abuse with a psychological component to it.

Distressed teenagers and children, in hope to overcome stress, often indulge in uncontrolled comfort eating of small eats that usually are rich in calories.

Disturbed mental health of the abused is well documented. Eating disorders like binge eating, bulimia and anorexia nervosa are also known to be more common in victims of child abuse.

A new research highlights the effects of childhood abuse on eating behavior of the abused.

The study

The data gathered from violence questionnaire was analyzed:
Of 57,321 adults who satisfactorily submitted complete data on their eating behavior about 4600 met food addiction criteria of the study.

The participants were from the Nurses' Health Study II, which ascertained child abuse (physical and sexual) histories in 2001 and in 2009 food addiction; defined as “three or more addiction-like eating behaviors severe enough to cause significant distress or loss of function”.

What causes food addiction?

Comfort eating gives a sense of well being in event of stress, exasperation and emotional loneliness. Comfort foods are typically high calorie tasty bites that give support and soothing effect to sore nerves.

The high that follows makes distressed children indulge in it impulsively and with rising frequency.

Food addiction can thus be compared to other addictions.
Like in drug addiction the intensity of brain reward gets blunted with passage of time, which simulates withdrawal symptoms and leads to compulsive eating even in the face of distress attributable to over eating. And overeating naturally results in undesired weight gain.
Identifying uncontrolled eating in response to distress

Like other eating disorders, food addiction is a type of behavioral response to emotional distress, but it is Not yet identified as a psychiatric disorder.

In this study, the risk of food addiction was found to be almost double in the participants who experienced severe physical and sexual abuse during their childhood: Potential course from child sexual abuse to obesity, and sexual abuse is usually accompanied with other forms of child abuse.

Have we hit possible cause for food addiction along with
revised concept for obesity management?

Dr. Mason and her co-authors conclude that though the observations made are thought provoking but not concluding. More research on the subject is necessary to firmly affirm child abuse as the cause of food addiction.

Only after enough evidence accumulates can prevention programs be introduced for food addicts with history of childhood trauma, and the obese could be screened for child abuse.

However, prevention of child abuse can never be over emphasized.


Abuse victimization in childhood or adolescence and risk of food addiction in adult women: Susan M. Mason, Alan J. Flint, Alison E. Field, S. Bryn Austin, Janet W. Rich-Edwards. Obesity, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/oby.20500

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Child Health News.

Liked what you read just now? Pay it forward!

Can't find answer to your concern? Search the site!

Child Health Explanation

Child Health Explanation

Home Page

Child Health Explanation

Follow Me

Liked What You Just Read?
Pay It Forward