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Binge Eating Patterns Correlated With Changes in Affect

March 30, 2020

Changes in affect were observed before and after episodes of binge eating in people with binge eating disorder (BED), researchers found in a study recently published online in Abnormal Psychology.

Namely, negative affect and guilt significantly increased and positive affect significantly decreased prior to the episodes. After the episodes, levels of negative affect and guilt significantly decreased and positive affect stabilized.

“Affect regulation models of eating disorder behavior, which predict worsening of affect prior to binge-eating episodes and improvement in affect following such episodes, have received support in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa,” researchers wrote. “However, limited work has examined the trajectories of affect surrounding binge eating in binge-eating disorder”

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The study utilized ecological momentary assessment data from 112 men and women with BED. It examined the trajectories of positive and negative affect, guilt, fear, hostility, and sadness relative to binge eating episodes.

“Overall, results indicate improvements in affect following binge-eating episodes, suggesting that binge eating may function to alleviate unpleasant emotional experiences among individuals with BED, which is consistent with affect regulation models of eating pathology,” the research team wrote.

“Because improvements in negative affect were primarily driven by change in guilt, findings also highlight the relative importance of understanding the relationship between guilt and binge-eating behavior within this population.”

—Terri Airov


Schaefer LM, Smith KE, Anderson LM, et al. The role of affect in the maintenance of binge-eating disorder: Evidence from an ecological momentary assessment study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 2020 March 26;[Epub ahead of print].

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