The experience of emotional eating in individuals with insecure attachment style: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach

  • H. I. Mamo
  • P. Louka
Keywords: Insecure Attachment Style, Emotional Eating behaviors, Coping, Support-seeking, Punishment, Reward


Numerous studies demonstrate a link between eating disorders and Insecure Attachment Styles (IAS). The attachment theory concerns the bond between the caregiver and the infant. The bond developed is considered to encompass interpersonal relationships thought-out lifespan, the view of self and the view of others. Emotional Eating (EE) is argued to underlie the existence of a maladaptive coping mechanism. IAS are suggested to inhibit support-seeking behaviors, encompass distorted perceptions regarding the bodily self and induce alterations in the dopaminergic circuits. The aim of the present study is to investigate the lived experience of EE in individuals with IAS. Thus, an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach is employed. Firstly, the completion the questionaries regarding attachment style and EE was facilitated. Subsequently, semi-structured interviews were conducted. Six participants were selected for the interview process. One theme was chosen to be analyzed: “Coping with emotions”. Participants convey their experience regarding EE and associate their eating behavior with their difficulty or unwillingness to communicate with their significant others in times of distress. The different meanings attributed to EE as solution-focused, emotional-focused and avoidant coping as well as the feelings and thoughts attached to EE are discussed. The meaning attributed to food and to EE behaviors as systems of reward and punishment is conveyed. Creating interventions for EE appears imperative due to the guilts experienced after overeating, the dissociative experience regarding the bodily self in EU as well as the willingness to seek support but the inability to do so when experiencing negative emotions.
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