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What causes binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder (BED) is caused by a complex combination of genetic, psychological and sociocultural factors.

A number of factors explain why binge eating disorder may be more likely to occur within certain families:

  • Approximately 95 percent of patients with BED had a parent with BED or substance abuse issues
  • There are neurobiological components to loss-of-control eating behaviors
  • A complex set of hormones influences and determines hunger and satiety cues as well as how we feel, think and behave around food

Psychological factors can also prime an individual to binge eat. Those most likely to struggle with BED tend to have the following traits:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Negative body image
  • Feelings of inadequacy and loneliness

In addition, binge eating disorder sufferers often struggle with co-occurring mood and anxiety disorders, have experienced some kind of trauma, or struggle to navigate developmental milestones and life changes.

Cultural and societal issues

The larger cultural narrative around dieting, binge eating and obesity is a prominent sociocultural factor influencing the development of binge eating disorder.

  • Dieting and weight loss have become synonymous with “healthy living
  • Cultural messages suggest that we have total control over our eating and weight
  • Others claim that willpower drives normal eating, weight loss and overall health

This rhetoric fosters shame and embarrassment for individuals struggling with BED, many of whom are chronic dieters without weight loss success.

Binge eating disorder can be treated

Binge eating disorder is often shrouded in shame and isolation. If you think you or someone you know is suffering from this eating disorder, take our short binge eating disorder quiz. And, if you know you need help, please call us at 877-825-8584 to speak with an ERC Masters-level clinician. We can help you understand your treatment options and guide you into the program that’s right for you. The call is confidential and there is no cost.

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