Binge eating disorder may be caused by a number of contributing factors, though an exact cause is unknown.
Some of these factors may include a combination of social and cultural expectations, family history, biological, and psychological elements.
Social pressure to be thin and being exposed to criticism about weight or body shape can cause one to engage in binge eating. Traumatic experiences such as abuse, or bullying, may also play a part. The cultural standards that equate thinness with physical beauty, often influenced through media, can make people susceptible to eating disorders.
There may be a genetic component to binge eating disorder. If an immediate family member suffers from one, this may indicate a genetic predisposition; therefore, other family members may be at higher risk. Behavior regarding food and eating within families may have an influence. Families who place a particular emphasis on food, either by overeating or using food as a reward or as a way to combat stress are likely to engage in binge eating because it gives them a sense of comfort.
Biological abnormalities such as genetic mutations and low levels of serotonin may play a role in binge eating disorder. Also, the hypothalamus is a complex region of the brain that controls hunger; it may not be sending the correct messages about appetite and fullness.
There is a strong correlation between depression and binge eating. Many binge eaters are either depressed or have been before. Others may struggle with impulse control and are not able to express their feelings. Loneliness, low self-esteem and lack of confidence may also contribute to the disorder.