Severity of Binge Eating Disorder Linked to Childhood Abuse

Binge eating disorder (BED) is a type of eating disorder that involves eating large quantities of food repeatedly and uncontrollably for at least several months. About four million Americans suffer from BED, and it is twice as common among women. Researchers didn’t know  much about the underlying causes of BED until a recent study found that the severity of BED appears to be linked to specific histories of childhood sexual or emotional abuse.

Science Daily reports that 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 their results 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 the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research at the JGH and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at McGill University.

"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."

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