How we use Food as a Means to Satisfy our Psychological Needs

The 2018 National Eating Disorders and Obesity Conference will be held at Twin Towns Services Club over 27-28 September.

Joining us at this year’s conference is Ms Tania E Murdock, Behavioural Scientist specialising in Emotional Health & Wellbeing at Dispute Management Australia who will present on ‘Addressing the Link between Emotional Health & Eating: How we use Food as a Means to Satisfy our Psychological Needs.’


In this workshop we explore the link between Emotional Health, Eating Disorders & Obesity. We will discuss how & why we use food as a tool to help regulate & fulfil our psychological needs. We are all on an Emotional Health spectrum, we fluctuate between thriving, struggling and being unwell. When we experience psychological distress, chronic stress or trauma, the normal Executive Functioning area of the brain is compromised. Chronic high stress kills neurons & can prevent the birth of new brain cells in the “hippocampus”.

High stress levels disrupt a person’s healthy behaviours. Once a pattern starts to form, it causes many more changes throughout the brain that creates a downward spiral. If adequate relief is not available, harmful maladaptive behaviours may be adopted and used to help cope with ongoing emotional distress. These maladaptive behaviours come in many forms, one of which is using food as a means of relieving unwanted emotions. We use food to mask or avoid the problem, and eating is a socially acceptable behaviour, as opposed to other maladaptive behaviours such as drug use or alcoholism. We must address the actual cause of the problem, not just the symptoms.

Suppressing the symptoms with maladaptive behaviours only exacerbates the problem. Emotional pain affects our normal human functioning, similarly as Physical pain does.
The human cost of ignoring emotional health is huge, and the cost to our economy is enormous. Worse still, it is a Compounding Problem. Awareness of Emotional Health is crucial, as it offers an opportunity to manage the situation by way of buffering some of the effects that arise from the risk factors. In this Workshop, we will discuss the options available to best address the association between poor Emotional Health, Eating Disorders and Obesity.

Key learnings:

  1. Understanding the Link between Emotional Health, Eating Disorders & Obesity.
  2. Increased awareness of the impacts of Chronic Stress & Trauma.
  3. How to best address the association between poor Emotional Health & Eating.


Tania E Murdock is a Behavioural Healthcare Specialist, with a focus on human emotional health & wellbeing. Tania is an Educator and has presented on topics related to Trauma & Stress at Conferences including: 2017 Family & Relationship Services Australia; 2017 Family Law Practitioner Association; & more recently at the 2018 No More Harm Conference. Tania has a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioural Science (Psychology), Monash University 2006, and has completed Post Graduate studies in Dispute Resolution & Conflict Management. Tania has specialised training in areas relating to Health Psychology, Chronic Stress & Trauma. Tania is also an Accredited Mediator.

For more information on the upcoming 2018 National Eating Disorders and Obesity Conference and to register your place please visit