Day Four of BED Week: What causes BED?

While the exact cause of binge eating disorder (BED) is unknown, there are a variety of factors that are thought to influence the development of this disorder. These factors are:

  • Biological: Twin and family studies estimate the heritability of BED symptoms at 41%- 57%. Biological abnormalities, such as hormonal irregularities or genetic mutations, which are linked to appetite and satiety may be associated with compulsive eating and food addiction.
  • Psychological: A strong correlation has been established between depression and binge eating. Body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and difficulty coping with feelings can also contribute to BED.
  • Social and Cultural: Traumatic situations, such as a history of sexual abuse, can increase the risk of binge eating. Social pressures to be thin, which are typically influenced through media, can trigger emotional eating. Persons subject to critical comments about their bodies or weight may be especially vulnerable to binge eating disorder.

To help illustrate how these factors interact and lead to the development of BED see the figure below:

Figure: Etiology of BED. The complex interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors lead to binge eating disorder (BED). Created by Chelsea Fielder-Jenks, 2013.

A myriad of research is available on the subject of what causes BED; these conclusions are a result of my own review of the literature. Experts will disagree with the causes of BED and more extensive research is needed on the subject.

Like always, feel free to leave any questions in the comments section below and I will be happy to answer them.

Don't forget to share this information as part of the BED Week "Do One Thing a Day" Social Media Challenge!



Eating Disorder Hope. 2012. Binge Eating Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, Signs, and Treatment Help.

Fielder-Jenks, Chelsea. 2009. An Overview of Binge-eating Disorder: Diagnostic Criteria, Epidemiology, Etiology, and Treatment.

National Eating Disorder Association. Retrieved May 30, 2013. Factors that may contribute to eating disorders.