Post-traumatic Stress Disorder can lead to food addiction in some, according to a new study.

Researchers said that the addiction was most common in people who had more symptoms or who suffered from PTSD early in life.

An anxiety disorder, PTSD occurs in people who have witnessed a terrifying event or ordeal in which there was the potential for or actual occurrence of serious physical harm. Statistics by National Institute of Mental Health show that 7.7 million adults in the United States are affected by PTSD. Women are more at risk of developing PTSD than men.

Lead researcher Susan M. Mason of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and colleagues, examined the data gathered from the Nurses' Health Study II and noted about trauma exposure, PTSD symptoms and food addiction.

Researchers defined food addiction as suffering three or more symptoms that include eating when satiated four or more times a week, worrying about reducing the intake of food four or more times a week, feeling the need to eat more food to reduce suffering at any frequency and having physical withdrawal symptoms when cutting down on certain foods two or more times a week.

The study looked into 49,408 women with 81 percent reporting at least one traumatic event.

According to the researchers, women with PTSD reported their first symptom at about 30 years. The food addiction in women with PTSD was 8 percent, with a range from 6 percent among women with no lifetime PTSD symptoms to almost 18 percent among women with 6 to 7 symptoms.

Researchers noted that the trauma symptoms following childhood physical abuse had the strongest association with food addiction. However, food addiction association did not differ significantly by the type of trauma suffered.

 "To our knowledge, this is the first study to look at the association between PTSD symptoms and food addiction. Our findings are relevant to ongoing questions regarding the mechanisms behind observed associations between PTSD and obesity, and they provide support for hypotheses suggesting that association between PTSD and obesity might partly originate in maladaptive coping and use of food to blunt trauma-associated distress. If replicated longitudinally, these results may have implications for both the etiology of obesity and for treatment of individuals with PTSD, " researchers said.

The findings are published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.