Emotional Hunger: Emotional or nervous hunger is one of the primary causes of obesity and, consequently, secondary lymphedema – an acquired dysfunction of the lymphatic vessels, which were originally healthy and fully functional. Food takes on a purpose beyond mere nutritional satisfaction, following psychological mechanisms of compensation. 


What is Emotional Hunger? A widespread eating disorder, emotional hunger is an alteration of the hypothalamic control mechanism. The uncontrollable urge to eat does not stem from a physiological need but from psychological factors. The compulsive act leads to the consumption of usually unhealthy and high-calorie foods, followed by a phase of regret. 

Eating even when not physically hungry to soothe negative feelings generated by emotionally challenging situations has nothing to do with a lack of willpower or awareness of what to eat. Comfort food becomes a kind of outlet, a compensation mechanism. 

Causes of Emotional Hunger The causes of emotional hunger are both biological and psychological. Biologically, the hypothalamus control mechanism undergoes an alteration, failing to correctly recognize the drop in sugar levels in the body and inducing an immediate need for food. 

However, in most cases, the uncontrollable impulse to eat is triggered by excessive stress, boredom, anxiety, low self-esteem, sadness, and loneliness. Disappointments and anger make people emotional, defenseless, insecure, making it easier to find comfort and consolation in food, especially when other outlets are not available. 

Risks of Emotional Hunger Emotional hunger becomes pathological when it turns into a habit. In other words, an occasional indulgence is allowed, but it must not become the rule. 

The uncontrollable need for food could lead to a dangerous weight gain that could result in obesity, one of the causes of secondary lymphedema that occurs due to a literal “crushing” of the lymphatic vessels and nodes. Associated disorders may include: 

Moreover, it should not be forgotten that excess weight represents a real psychological discomfort for many people. 

Combating Emotional Hunger To fight the false brain signals that lead to overeating, it is first necessary to identify the underlying causes of emotional hunger, recognizing why one is sad, anxious, unsatisfied, and resisting when the uncontrollable need for comfort food arises. Small adjustments could help combat the disorder and regain control of one’s life. For example: 

A healthy diet should become a lifestyle, within which there can be occasional indulgences as long as they occur only occasionally to not compromise one’s figure. It’s essential to learn not to channel frustrations into food and to give foods their rightful place as nourishment. If necessary, especially in cases where emotional hunger becomes obsessive and food the primary outlet, it will be important to follow a therapy that allows for more rational management of emotions to one’s advantage. 

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