Food addiction as a proxy for eating disorder and obesity severity, trauma history, PTSD symptoms, and comorbidity

  • Timothy D. BrewertonEmail author
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Food and Addiction



Food addiction (FA) is a newly defined yet still controversial condition that has important etiological, developmental, treatment, prevention, and social policy implications. In this review, the case is made that FA (or high scores on the Yale Food Addiction Scale) may be used as a proxy measure for a matrix of interrelated clinical features, including greater eating disorder severity, greater obesity severity, more severe trauma histories, greater symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), greater psychiatric comorbidity, as well as greater medical morbidity and mortality.


A Medline search was undertaken using the following terms: food addiction cross-referenced with eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and binge eating), obesity, trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder, and comorbidity.


The thesis is that the identification and acknowledgment of the concept of FA, when integrated into an overall, trauma-focused and transdiagnostic treatment approach, are supported and can be useful in understanding clinically the “big picture.”


Food addiction (FA) may be used as a proxy for (1) bulimic eating disorder severity, (2) complex trauma histories, (3) severity of PTSD and PTSD symptoms, (4) intensity of psychiatric comorbidity, (5) severity of obesity, as well as (6) their combination. Implications for developing treatment strategies are discussed. The case for a comprehensive management that requires careful attention to medical and psychiatric assessment and integrated care that incorporates trauma-focused treatment is made.


Binge eating disorder Bulimia nervosa Comorbidity Food addiction Posttraumatic stress disorder Severity 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants and/or animals

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

No new results are being reported in this paper, so informed consent is not applicable.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesMedical University of South CarolinaCharlestonUSA
  2. 2.Mount PleasantUSA

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