What causes Binge Eating Disorder?

According to NEDA’s website, in May of 2013, the DSM-5 officially declared that it recognizes binge eating disorder under it’s list of diagnosable eating disorders. Their website describes binge eating disorder as consuming large quantities of food in a short amount of time accompanied by feelings of discomfort and a loss of self-control. I am saddened when I hear about eating disorders and curious as to what causes them. Specifically, what are some possible causes of Binge Eating Disorder?

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I found an article that shows a possible correlation between binge eating and traumatic events. The author of this article, Kate Bader, states that there are reasonable correlations, though there is yet to be a direct correlation determined between trauma and consistent binge eating. Bader brings up the idea that people who suffer from post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) may be looking for something to keep their mind off whatever traumatic experience they had. In an attempt to dig deeper into a possible correlation, I focused on a group of people in America who are no strangers to PTSD, soldiers. I found through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website, that nearly 30% of Vietnam veterans (at some point in their lives), 12% of Gulf War veterans, and 11-20% of Iraqi war veterans have or are currently experiencing PTSD. According to another article on the same website, a study performed circa 2014 showed that a whopping 78% of the over 45,000 veterans who were using the Veterans Health Administration for aid in weight loss had been dealing with binge eating. Still, the article admits there is still much more research needed to be done.

Feeling blue

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Another possible cause of binge eating disorder could be depression. In an article I found in the New York Times, Dr. B. Tim Walsh, a specialist in eating disorders, basically states that if you take two groups of people who are equally overweight, with one group consisting of binge eaters and the other of non binge eaters, the binge eaters will be more negatively connected to depression. This article, states that 75% of patients who become diagnosed with eating disorders in general, also share many symptoms of depression. The article goes on to explain that serotonin, a chemical messenger that is sent out to various neurons in our brain, is the chemical messenger that controls what kind of mood we are in, how hungry we are, and our ability to memorize. Although, people with binge eating disorder can suffer through low levels of serotonin, in turn, making them feel depressed. With lower levels of serotonin, they won’t feel the same satisfaction of eating. It is also possible that reverse causation is involved. If you think about it, people with binge eating disorder who have lower levels of serotonin can be linked to depression, but that depression, though not fully proven yet, is thought to be a cause of binge eating disorder.

In conclusion, through researching what causes binge eating disorder, I realized that nothing has been fully proven to be a direct correlation to the disorder. I believe that because the disorder was just recently (going on 4 years) officially recognized by the DSM-5, the scientific research behind the disorder will start to pick up. So for now, I can only assume that traumatic events and depression are two things that may possibly be the cause binge eating disorder.

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