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Emotional overeating "overlooked"

Emotional causes of overeating are being overlooked by healthcare professionals, a new survey reveals.

The research by the eating disorder charity Beat suggests misunderstanding, lack of help and stigma affect people with emotional overeating issues.

The survey of more than 1,000 people across the UK showed:

 - 88% said their problems with food were related to emotional problems.

 - 85% had a negative body image of themselves.

 - 76% felt their self esteem was low.

 - 53% suffered from depression.

However 73% of respondents who visited their GP said their emotional health was not investigated.

Susan Ringwood, Beat´s chief executive said: “We need to raise greater awareness that people with emotional issues around food need psychological support.

“They may need skilled psychological and emotional support to help them achieve and maintain a healthy weight and shape. It is this skilled support that is lacking. Being told to eat less and exercise more isn't an adequate answer. This survey demonstrates only too clearly that people struggling to overcome their overweight need better help and understanding - both from healthcare professionals and society in general.”

Dr Andrew Hill, professor of medical psychology at Leeds University said “Emotions, mainly negative emotions, play a major role in unwanted and uncontrolled eating. Unhelpful relationships between food, eating and mood can be longstanding and very difficult to change. They are also very difficult to talk to others about. For some people, recognizing the interplay between food and feelings is an important first step. Others require more specialist psychological support."

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners said: “Overeating remains a taboo subject for most people and the reasons for this are varied and complex. It is vital that mental health achieves the same attention as physical health and we need greater access to talking therapies so that patients can feel more confident and comfortable about discussing difficult issues affecting their lives.”