Cognitive And Emotional Functioning In Binge Eating Sydrome

sharma-obesity-mental-health1As a clinician often dealing with patients presenting with binge-eating disorder (BED), I am quite aware of the often pathological cognitive and emotional relationship to food, eating, and body image presented by patients with this syndrome.

Whether or not this impairment in thinking and feeling also extends to other behavioural or emotional domains is the topic of a systematic review by Kittel and colleagues from the University of Leipzig, published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

The paper is based on the review of almost 60 studies and shows that, individuals with BED consistently demonstrate higher information processing biases compared to obese and normal-weight controls in the context of disorder-related stimuli (i.e., food and body cues) – in contrast, cognitive functioning in the context of neutral stimuli appear to be less affected.

With regard to emotional functioning, individuals with BED also report greater emotional deficits when compared to obese and normal-weight controls.

Thus, these findings confirm the clinical observation that patients with BED tend to have specific difficulties in cognitive and emotional functioning when it comes to food, eating or body image, however, appear to function adequately in other domains.

For clinicians these finding are relevant as they show that while people with BED may benefit from help in changing their cognitive and emotional response to food cues, such problems are indeed more often encountered in people with BED rather than in everyone living with obesity.

Screening for BED should be an essential element of workup in anyone presenting with excess weight gain.

Vancouver, BC