IT IS estimated that 20% of the population of the United States, or approximately 40 million adults and children, are overweight. Gordon et al1 have pointed out that obesity of such widespread proportions is a problem of affluent societies, occurring when an abundance of food is available to great masses of people. Presumably, many in this overweight population are what they are because of the mere availability of food. For some, however, the reasons for excessive food intake are less obvious; the severely obese person so exceeds his caloric needs that his fatness threatens his own physical and social wellbeing.
Although emotional factors are apparently of importance in such obesity, Stunkard2 points out that this assumption is based on two very general findings: first, that obese persons admit they eat when they are upset and, secondly, that such persons manifest more neurotic traits than their nonobese counterparts.
Swanson DW, Dinello FA. Severe Obesity as a Habituation SyndromeEvidence During a Starvation Study. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1970;22(2):120-127. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1970.01740260024004