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Magnitude of Binge Eating Disorder Tied to Childhood

A new study of binge eating disorder (BED) discovers the severity of the condition appears to be linked to specific histories of childhood sexual or emotional abuse, which in turn lead to self-criticism.

BED is characterized by excessive overeating or stuffing of food — then feeling disgusted, depressed and guilty — then stuffing with food once again. Then imagine doing it again, repeatedly and uncontrollably, once a week or more for months on end.

BED is a psychiatric condition similar to other eating disorders like bulimia, minus the countervailing purging behavior, and compulsive overeating, but without the constant fantasizing about food.

Some binge eating disorder sufferers, in fact, have very negative associations with food. Moreover, until now, researchers knew little about the underlying causes of BED.

David M. Dunkley, a psychiatric researcher and clinical psychologist at the Jewish General Hospital (JGH) in Montreal, and his colleagues studied a group of 170 BED sufferers and discovered that the severity of the condition — reflected by greater body dissatisfaction and depressive symptoms — appears to be linked to very specific histories of childhood sexual or emotional abuse, which in turn lead to self-criticism.

Their results were published recently in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Childhood sexual abuse or emotional abuse were associated with greater body dissatisfaction in BED, whereas physical abuse or physical or emotional neglect were not,” explained Dunkley, a project director at McGill University.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, an estimated two percent of the adult population in North America suffers from binge eating disorder, approximately 450,000 Canadians and nearly four million Americans. It is twice as common among women as among men.

“I definitely suggest that therapists focus on self-criticism in cases of suspected childhood maltreatment in BED,” continued Dunkley.

“We did look at alternative theories, like childhood emotional abuse leading to depression which leads to body dissatisfaction and self-criticism.

“But it doesn’t seem to work that way. Self-criticism is the mediator. Without it, it doesn’t seem to progress to greater body dissatisfaction in BED.”

Source: Jewish General Hospital

Magnitude of Binge Eating Disorder Tied to Childhood

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Magnitude of Binge Eating Disorder Tied to Childhood. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 21, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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