What Triggers Emotional Eating?

As life’s demands get more tasking, many people turn to food for solace and comfort. Unlike physical hunger, which is driven by the body’s need for sustenance, this phenomenon known as emotional eating is driven by an emotional response to external stimuli.

This article will examine how emotional eating works and how it can affect your health.

How Do Experts Define “Emotional Eating”?

“Emotional eating” is not a diagnostic or clinical term; it is not an eating disorder like binge eating or anorexia. Though it comes up across fields of nutrition, psychology, and medicine, there is no specific academic definition of the term.

According to a review article published in 2016 in Frontiers in Psychology, emotional eating is not always connected to increased calorie intake.

Per the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), it is worth noting that binge eating disorder isn’t synonymous with emotional eating, nor is it a symptom of binge eating disorder.

Why and When Emotional Eating Can Be Good for Well-Being

Given that eating is an inherently emotional, it is important to lean into the emotions you experience while eating. Research shows that communal eating, such as Thanksgiving dinner, is associated with life satisfaction, community involvement, and strong social bonds.

When Emotional Eating Can Be Harmful to Health

According to researchers, overeating as a strategy for coping with negative emotions is a learned response. This means it is bound to become automatic the more you do it.

A review study published in March 2023 in the International Journal of Eating Disorders discovered that individuals who had experienced traumatic events and PTSD were more likely to experience greater eating disorder symptoms.

Another study published in 2020 in the journal Appetite reports that post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) are linked with binge eating behaviors in individuals who struggle with emotional eating and emotional dysregulation.

2 Things You Can Do if Emotional Eating Is Hurting Your Health

If you are feeling uncomfortable about the eating habits you have developed in response to dealing with your emotions, these are some strategies you can try:

● Keep a food journal where you jot down how you feel before and after eating.
● Permit yourself to enjoy your favorite foods. This allows you to stop the overeating cycle that could emerge with food restriction.


Emotional eating can lead to multiple health complications affecting your physical and mental well-being. To stop this from happening, you can seek professional help from a therapist specializing in eating disorders.