Binge eaters more likely to be impulsive people
People who tend to be impulsive may be more at risk of developing a binge-eating disorder, according to a study.
The study looked at 612 female twins, 14 percent of whom had problems with binge eating or other eating disorders that involved overeating or uncontrollable consumption of food. Researchers found those with eating disorders had a higher tendency to react impulsively when experiencing negative emotions than those who didn’t.
“Binge eating involves the uncontrolled consumption of a large quantity of food in a short time period, without the follow-up ‘purge’ that occurs in other eating disorders,” says Dr. Judy Ronan Woodburn, clinical psychologist with Advocate Medical Group who practices at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “While impulsivity as a reaction to negative emotions may be a factor in binge eating, my clinical experience suggests that binge eating is much more complicated.”
She suggests that binge eating – or any use of food as a mean of coping with emotions or stressors – can be a learned behavior. For example, many people speak of certain types of foods as ‘comfort foods’ because they have been taught through socio-cultural messages that these types of foods help them feel better.
“The research suggests that teaching people to manage their emotions in healthy ways can help them not use eating [or not eating] as a means of coping,” Dr. Ronan Woodburn says.
Binge eating is the most prevalent eating disorder in the U.S., affecting 3.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men, according to the Binge Eating Disorder Association. Recent revelations from tennis star Monica Seles about her struggles with the disorder have brought it more in the public eye.
“It’s possible that relationships between binge eating and negative urgency reflect impairments in behavioral control over eating when upset,” lead researcher Sarah Racine said in a news release.
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