The Science Behind Binge Eating Disorder

Tuesday, Jan 03  •  


binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder is a mental disorder characterized by recurring episodes of uncontrollable binge eating. It differs from bulimia nervosa as the latter involves regular compensatory behaviors, such as purging after eating. Binge eating is characterized by rapidly intaking food, eating until feeling uncomfortable, and feeling guilt and disgust after the binge eating episode.

Here’s everything you need to know about binge eating disorder, including its causes and treatment. 

Unraveling the Science Behind Binge Eating Disorder – What Causes It?

The exact causes of binge eating disorder are relatively unknown; more research needs to be conducted on the disorder. That said, from what we know so far, it’s established that binge eating disorder runs in families, i.e., a person might have a genetic predisposition to developing this or other related disorders. 

Moreover, multiple psychological factors, such as poor body image, low self-esteem, stress, and susceptibility to yo-yo dieting, can also exacerbate and trigger binge eating episodes. Moreover, negative emotions can also trigger binge eating episodes. Interpersonal stressors, feeling restricted by an overly strict diet, and sheer boredom can also bring on an episode. 

On a neurological level, studies have found that dopamine might play a key role in developing this disorder. People who engage in binge eating might have abnormal dopamine levels in their brains. However, further research is required to solidify this claim. 

Ultimately, the causes behind binge eating disorder can be a mix of genetic predisposition, negative thoughts tied to self, weight and shape issues, peer and cultural pressure, environmental factors, etc. 

The Link Between Binge Eating Disorder & Depression

A binge eating disorder and clinically diagnosed depression often coincide, which might be due to a genetic vulnerability. The affected individual might also have a predisposition to both mental disorders. One can also precede the other and become a direct cause of it. For instance, binge eating can be an attempt to fight the emptiness caused by depression. Alternatively, binge eating can lead to worsening self-esteem and chronically low mood. 

Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder

Several treatments are available for people who want to recover from binge eating disorder. These include cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy. The former teaches individuals to track their food consumption, work on changing unhealthy eating habits, and control their reactions in challenging situations. The latter helps people assess their interpersonal relationships and make fruitful changes in situations that could be triggering their binge eating. 

Drug therapy is also helpful for people suffering from simultaneous depressive episodes. Dialectical behavior therapy helps individuals regulate their emotions, and group therapy can also help people feel the support of a community that understands their suffering. 

At the end of the day, treatment for binge eating disorder will vary from person to person. Avalon Hills has a dynamic treatment program and culture that relies on a Treat to Outcome” approach. We aim to help our patients recover from their disorder sustainably to ensure they can lead a regular life post-recovery. Learn more about this curative approach here!