Self-Criticism Mediates the Relationship Between Childhood Abuse and Body Dissatisfaction and Depression in Binge Eating Disorder
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Self-Criticism Mediates the Relationship Between Childhood Abuse and Body Dissatisfaction and Depression in Binge Eating Disorder

A recent study by researchers Dunkley, Masheb and Grilo examined the potentially mediating role of self-criticism between childhood mistreatment and depression and body dissatisfaction in binge eating disorder, or BED.

With greater awareness of the prevalence of eating disorders in the general population has come increasing research efforts into the etiology of anorexia and bulimia nervosa, and, in recent years, binge eating disorder. While binge eating disorder (BED) has yet to be classified as a separate eating disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM), it has been cited to be the most common eating disorder in the United States, currently affecting 3.5% of females and 2% of males. Moreover, BED is said to be prevalent in about 30% of persons seeking weight loss treatment. Given its ubiquity in the U.S., there is thus significant impetus to explore empirically the factors that might precipitate the development of binge eating disorder. 

What, such studies aim to determine, would cause a person to adopt the seemingly maladaptive coping skill of binge eating? Obesity has, after all, become an increasing source of concern among health professionals for its implication in developing hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes, and Western society is notoriously unaccepting of those men and women who do not fit the beauty and weight ideal.

A recent study by researchers Dunkley, Masheb and Grilo examined the potentially mediating role of self-criticism between childhood mistreatment and depression and body dissatisfaction in binge eating disorder.

Participants in the study were 170 individuals with BMIs of 25 or over who had been diagnosed with BED. The sample was largely female and Caucasian, with an average age of 43.

Analyses of the data revealed that childhood emotional and sexual abuse was significantly associated with body dissatisfaction later in life. Self-critical attitudes, self-esteem and depression were also significantly correlated with emotional abuse and with body dissatisfaction.

Teasing out the relationship between the various variables, Dunkley et al. found that self-criticism was indeed a mediator between childhood abuse and depression and body dissatisfaction in BED, indicating that higher levels of self-criticism would lead to higher levels of body dissatisfaction, while persons with less self-critical attitudes who had experienced childhood abuse would experience less body dissatisfaction and potentially less problematic binge eating.

That bodily dissatisfaction is implicated in BED has been understood for some time, but the potential mediating role of self-criticism in the relationship between childhood mistreatment and body dissatisfaction had heretofore never been explored.

Extrapolating from these results, practitioners who work with BED patients can apply greater efforts to teaching women and men with BED skills to eliminate self-critical attitudes, so that they might experience a remittence or lessening in symptoms.

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