Specific Interpersonal Problems Predict Binge Eating

Binge eating is just one type of eating problem on the spectrum of eating and food issues. Other conditions associated with eating problems include anorexia, excessive exercising, and purging. It has been clearly established that affect influences binge eating behavior; however, the existing research into this has raised additional questions regarding the factors that impact affect and subsequently, binge eating.

To examine this issue further, Jessica Yu of the Department of Psychology at the State University of New Jersey recently led a study on the daily eating patterns and affect of 47 participants with dysregulated eating behaviors. The participants recorded their moods, interpersonal events, and eating habits over a two week period.

Yu had over 3,000 snapshots of real-time experiences by the end of the two weeks. She discovered that of the 47 participants, 17 had high levels of binge eating. In fact, those 17 accounted for 62 separate episodes of binging. These same participants had the highest reports of interpersonal problems and affective vulnerability.

In particular, the participants who reported conflicts with others or incidents that caused their moods to deteriorate were more likely to binge than those who had stable affect. Some of the events that led to negative affect included, being ignored, insulted, rejected, criticized, ordered around, let down by another or receiving dirty looks. Although these events are all highly subjective, they were significant to the mood of the participants and directly increased risk of binging.

These findings are novel in that they provide a glimpse into specific events related to affect that can increase the likelihood of negative coping strategies such as binging. She believes that these results support interventions like dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which aims to reduce distress, increase mindfulness, regulate emotions, and improve interpersonal relationships.

All of these issues were indicated in the participant reports in Yu’s study and therefore, could be improved with therapies like DBT. Although this study provides robust results, further work should examine other factors that impact affect such as weight, body mass index (BMI), and interpersonal liability. Yu added, “The answers to these questions have further implications for prevention and treatment of binge eating problems.”

Yu, Jessica, and Edward A. Selby. (2013). The Interaction Between Affective Liability and Interpersonal Problems in Binge Eating. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology 32.5 (2013): 465-81. Print.

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  • Belle


    May 23rd, 2013 at 3:58 AM

    Eating disorders as a whole is something that we have to be more and more concerned about with any generation of young men and women. This is a disease that is horribly and negatively impacting so many lives today that I am always hopeful when I read about new findings and directions that treatment and prevention planning can now take. This wasn’t something that I have ever personally struggled with or that any family members that I know have fought with, but I know that my daughter has several friends who have veered into dangerous territory from time to time, and that concerns me for her. She is healthy and happy now, but I know that sometimes hearing the wrong thing from the worng person can trigger your brain into thinking that this kind of behavior would be a good idea, and I don’t want her ever getting sucked into that.

  • phyllis


    May 24th, 2013 at 4:11 AM

    i wish that my own parents would have been a little more in tune with me when i started experiencing my own problems with weight and eating they were off in their own world so i tried to muddle through it alone. i think that i could have been a success with dbt if i had been given the chance

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