Women’s Experiences with Emotional Eating and Related Attachment and Sociocultural Processes


  • Alexis Hernandez-Hons, PsyD, and Scott R. Woolley, PhD, Marital and Family Therapy, California School of Professional Psychology, Alliant International University.

Address correspondence to Alexis Hernandez-Hons, Alliant International University, California School of Professional Psychology, Marital and Family Therapy Department, 10455 Pomerado Road, San Diego, California 92131-1799; E-mail: AHernandez.Hons@gmail.com


This study explored the experiences, influences, and concerns of women who eat for emotional reasons with an emphasis on relational and cultural factors. Colaizzi’s (1978) guidelines to analyzing phenomenological research were utilized to explore participants’ lived experiences and gain a deeper understanding of emotional eating. A number of unique themes connecting attachment-related influences with emotional eating were identified. The following 10 theme clusters were developed: Personal and Cultural Foundation, Preoccupation With Food and Eating, Relationship History, Addiction as Coping Mechanism for Insecure Attachment, Moments of Empowerment and Acceptance, Self-Judgment About Eating and Weight, Social Influences on Eating and Weight Gain, Secretive Eating, Emotional Eating as Reminiscent of Ambivalent Attachment, and Emotional Hunger. Clinical interventions and future research are discussed.