WINNIPEG -- A new study out of the University of Manitoba suggests there may be a link between post-traumatic stress disorder and binge eating.

The study shows people suffering from PTSD report a higher number of binge eating symptoms compared to people who were exposed to trauma, but did not develop the disorder.

“We’re still trying to understand the link between these two things, but one of the hypotheses that we have is that maybe binge eating is something that individuals suffering with PTSD may use as a coping strategy to try to distract from the really difficult nature of the symptoms that they are having,” said Natalie Mota, assistant professor of clinical health psychology at the U of M and senior author of the study.

“We hope that this kind of sheds awareness on this link.”

The study used information collected in interviews with over 34,000 U.S. adults, including men and women. It shows the association between PTSD and binge eating is independent of other mental health conditions.

Mota said there are well-known associations between PTSD symptoms and other health behaviours, like smoking or increased alcohol use, but the information on binge eating has been limited until now.

“There had been a few study’s showing this link, but none in a sample as big as the one we were able to investigate,” Mota told CTV News Winnipeg. “What we hope is that clinicians working with individuals with PTSD can use this information to screen and asses for binge eating and to supplement PTSD interventions with coping strategies that are evidence based that can help reduce binge eating as well.”

The study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.