Date of Award:

2002

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

David M. Stein

Abstract

Recent research indicates that 2% to 4% of the population meet diagnostic criteria for the newly proposed binge eating disorder, and that it is much more common (30%) among the treatment-seeking obese. Although recognized as a significant problem, binge eating disorder is l1l not well understood, and there is debate about whether binge eating disorder is a distinct disorder. It has been argued that binge eating disorder is simply a variant or milder form of bulimia nervosa and not a separate and distinct disorder. Researchers have begun to study this population in greater depth in order to assess the characteristics of individuals with binge eating disorder, the similarities and differences between individuals with binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, and obese individuals who do not engage in binge eating, and the effectiveness of various treatments for binge eating disorder. Previous reviews of the literature (using non-meta-analytic strategies) have examined these areas and have yielded inconsistent conclusions. Therefore, a more comprehensive, current, and empirical integration of the data was conducted.

In total, 297 studies of individuals with binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa and/or obese individuals who do not engage in binge eating were collected, coded, and statistically analyzed across studies (by calculating standardized mean difference effect sizes). The key characteristics of individuals with binge eating disorder were assessed, diagnostic groups were systematically compared, and treatment outcomes (from 19 studies) were evaluated. The results indicated that individuals with binge eating disorder have a number of differences from both bulimia nervosa and obese non binge eating individuals. However, the extent of these differences was not great, and there was a general trend for binge eating disorder individuals to fall between the two groups on most measures of disturbed eating and psychopathology. These findings tend to support the continuum/variant conceptualization of binge eating disorder rather than that of a distinct disorder. In addition, data from primary research studies on the treatment of binge eating disorder indicated that, overall, psychosocial interventions were helpful in decreasing binge eating and psychopathological symptoms, but were less effective at reducing weight. The clinical implications of these findings are discussed, as are suggestions for future research.

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