Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 51, Issue 6, pp 822–832 | Cite as

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms and Problematic Overeating Behaviors in Young Men and Women

  • Susan M. MasonEmail author
  • Patricia A. Frazier
  • S. Bryn Austin
  • Bernard L. Harlow
  • Benita Jackson
  • Nancy C. Raymond
  • Janet W. Rich-Edwards
Original Article



Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a risk factor for obesity, but the range of behaviors that contribute to this association are not known.


The purpose of this study was to examine associations between self-reported PTSD symptoms in 2007, with and without comorbid depression symptoms, and three problematic overeating behaviors in 2010, and to estimate the associations of PTSD-related overeating behaviors with obesity.


Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses included 7438 male (n = 2478) and female (n = 4960) participants from the Growing Up Today Study (mean age 22–29 years in 2010). Three eating behavior outcomes were assessed: binge eating (eating a large amount of food in a short period of time with loss of control), top quartile of coping-motivated eating (from the Motivations to Eat scale), and top quartile of disinhibited eating (from the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire).


PTSD symptoms were associated with two- to threefold increases in binge eating and top-quartile coping-motivated eating; having ≥4 PTSD symptoms, relative to no PTSD symptoms, was associated with covariate-adjusted RRs of 2.7 (95% CI 2.1, 3.4) for binge eating, 2.1 (95% CI 1.9, 2.4) for the top quartile of coping-motivated eating, and 1.5 (95% CI 1.3, 1.7) for the top quartile of disinhibited eating. There was a trend toward PTSD symptoms in 2007 predicting new onset binge eating in 2010. Having depression symptoms comorbid with PTSD symptoms further increased risk of binge eating and coping-motivated eating. All eating behaviors were associated with obesity.


Clinicians treating patients with PTSD should know of potential comorbid problematic eating behaviors that may contribute to obesity.


Posttraumatic stress disorder Depression Obesity Eating behavior Binge eating 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Authors’ Statement of Conflict of Interest and Adherence to Ethical Standards

Mason, Frazier, Austin, Harlow, Jackson, Raymond, and Rich-Edwards declare that they have no conflict of interest. All procedures, including the informed consent process, were conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


Dr. Mason is supported by the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health Grant (No. K12HD055887) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the Office of Research on Women’s Health, and the National Institute on Aging, NIH, administered by the University of Minnesota Deborah E. Powell Center for Women’s Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the office views of the NICHD or NIH. This work was also supported by the National Institutes of Health grants R01 HD066963 and R01 HD049889. Dr. Austin is supported by the US Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration grants 6T71-MC00009 and T76-MC00001.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan M. Mason
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Patricia A. Frazier
    • 3
  • S. Bryn Austin
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
  • Bernard L. Harlow
    • 6
  • Benita Jackson
    • 7
  • Nancy C. Raymond
    • 8
    • 9
  • Janet W. Rich-Edwards
    • 10
    • 11
  1. 1.Division of Epidemiology and Community HealthUniversity of Minnesota School of Public HealthMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Channing Division of Network MedicineBrigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  4. 4.Division of Adolescent and Young Adult MedicineBoston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  5. 5.Department of Social and Behavioral SciencesHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  6. 6.Department of EpidemiologyBoston University School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  7. 7.Department of PsychologySmith CollegeNorthamptonUSA
  8. 8.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Minnesota Medical SchoolMinneapolisUSA
  9. 9.Powell Center for Women’s HealthUniversity of Minnesota Medical SchoolMinneapolisUSA
  10. 10.Department of EpidemiologyHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  11. 11.Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender BiologyBrigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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