Binge-Eating Disorder Causes

Although the specific causes of a binge-eating disorder are not clear, several risk factors are likely to increase the potential for an individual to develop the disorder. In most cases, several risk factors will contribute to the development of the disorder.

Genetic predisposition

Individuals with a family history of eating disorders are at a significantly heightened risk of being affected by a binge-eating disorder.

This could be caused by a specific gene mutation that is inherited from the parents, which is linked to addiction to food and increased likelihood of an eating disorder. However, this could also result from acquired traits from the family, such as lifestyle and stress coping mechanisms.

Eating Disorders from the Inside Out: Laura Hill at TEDxColumbus.

Psychological factors

There is a significant link between binge-eating and psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety. In fact, many individuals who suffer from binge-eating disorder are currently affected by depression and/or anxiety, or have been in the past.

Poor body image and low self-esteem may also have a role to play in the development of binge-eating disorder. People who are dissatisfied with the appearance or shape of their body are more susceptible to an eating disorder such as binge-eating disorder.

History of restricted eating patterns

In particular, people who have a history of dieting with strict restriction of certain foods are more likely to be affected. Some patients with this condition report excessive dieting habits that began in childhood or early adolescent years.

It is believed that the restricted eating patterns have the potential to trigger the urge to binge eat, particularly in combination with other risk factors, such as low-self esteem and stressful situations. Therefore, the craving or urge to eat the restricted food then leads to overeating and, if it happens repeatedly, the binge-eating disorder can present.

Biological factors

There are also some health conditions or biological factors that may be involved in causing a binge-eating disorder. For example, changes in the hunger and satiety hormones produced in the hypothalamus can lead to an abnormal regulation of food intake and the possibility of binge-eating.

Additionally, there is some evidence that the neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin may have a role to play, although more research is required to support this notion.

A binge-eating disorder usually presents in adolescence or early adulthood, suggesting that age may have an impact on the presentation of the disease. This may also be linked to the hormonal changes that typically occur during this period of life, however.

Environmental factors

Social and cultural ideals of beauty, body weight, and body shape may be driving factors for binge-eating disorder. Many individuals feel an overwhelming pressure to maintain a slender body shape and use strict dieting techniques get there. However, these restrictions can be counter-productive and increase the urge to eat when faced with emotional stress.

Additionally, unhealthy habits can be acquired from parents, particularly those who use food to comfort or reward their children or those who place a strong emphasis on body appearance and weight. Traumatic situations, such as emotional or sexual abuse, can also increase the risk of an eating disorder such as a binge-eating disorder.


Further Reading

Last Updated: Apr 12, 2021

Yolanda Smith

Written by

Yolanda Smith

Yolanda graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of South Australia and has experience working in both Australia and Italy. She is passionate about how medicine, diet and lifestyle affect our health and enjoys helping people understand this. In her spare time she loves to explore the world and learn about new cultures and languages.


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