Women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to be overweight or obese than women without the condition, a new study suggests. According to the researchers, one in nine women has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their life.
PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms can vary over time or vary from person to person.
Women with PTSD gain weight faster than women who do not have the condition, Koenen said. “This, in turn, has consequences for the risk of heart disease and all the adverse outcomes associated with obesity,” she said. For most people, eating feels good. And in times of stress, some people use food as the best way to calm their emotions. While this occasional strategy is not uncommon in people of all body shapes and sizes, it can create problems if you are trying to lose weight or if eating is your only way to cope with stress.
And it’s not just overeating that can be problematic. Your food choices are likely to change when you feel more anxious. A study published in Physiology and Behavior determined that not only do we eat more when stressed, but the foods consumed are foods that are normally avoided for weight loss or health reasons (foods that are typically higher in calories and added sugar).
Also, when we are stressed our body produces more cortisol which can lead to weight gain. Many people who are trying to lose weight, but are stressed may not see a change in their weight which is completely unrelated to their best efforts but rather related to our body’s response to stress. PTSD can be a big roadblock for people trying to lose weight or get healthier. These hormones are involved in a range of body processes, including metabolism.
Cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for fast energy and stimulates insulin release and maintenance of blood sugar levels. The end result of these actions can be an increase in appetite and can cause cravings for sweet, high-fat, and salty foods
Women with PTSD may change behaviors that lead to obesity. There is evidence that people under stress crave high-calorie processed foods, also they are less likely to exercise.
Prevention strategies for obesity and depression are different, but several do overlap. You can reduce your risk for either condition if you:
- Stay active
- Talk to someone
- Follow your treatment plans
Exercise is a great way to boost natural depression-fighting endorphins, lose or maintain weight, and feel better overall. Some research suggestsTrusted Source that exercising at least once weekly can have a significant impact on depression symptoms.
That being said, exercising when you’re depressed can be a challenge due to motivation. Taking small steps first — like even 10 minutes of daily exercise — may help you get in the habit of exercising regularly.
Talk to someone
Therapy can be a wonderful approach to many issues. From depression to obesity, a therapist or psychiatrist can help you process the emotional factors both conditions cause.
They can also help you embrace changes that will improve your quality of life.
Stick with your treatment plan
If your doctor has diagnosed either condition, they’ve likely prescribed medication, dietary changes, or made other suggestions for condition management. Sticking to these guidelines — and being honest when you hit a speedbump — is the only way to minimize side effects and other complications.
When to See an Expert
If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse.