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Binge Eating Linked to Suicide Attempts, Anxiety, and Depression


Given the images that flood Western culture, it isn’t surprising that many young girls develop eating disorders. It also isn’t surprising that the presence of eating disorders is linked to a raised risk of suicide and other psychiatric problems.

In a new study from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that young women who have habits of binge-eating report more suicide attempts, as well as other psychiatric problems such as anxiety and depression (Springer). This study showed that young women who display binge-eating behaviors have higher rates of anxiety and depression as well as are more likely to report suicide attempts.

The study, led by Dr. Rashelle Musci, followed 313 African American girls for 11 years, roughly from the ages of 6 to 17 (Nauert). Researchers defined binge-eating as eating large amounts of food in a short period of time and feeling out of control while doing so (Young girls who binge eat likelier to commit suicide). Interviews were conducted with teachers, parents, and children, quantifying levels of anxiety, depression, and satisfaction with physical appearance, and eating behaviors, with a focus on binge eating. The researchers also noted who had reported a suicide attempt during this time period.

What they found was that when these females reported dissatisfaction with their appearance, they were more likely to develop psychiatric problems like anxiety and depression in adolescence. They also found that these developments were linked to binge-eating behaviors in adolescents, and that the girls that reported more binge-eating behaviors also reported more suicide attempts (Nauert).

While this information is certainly distressing and emphasizes the need for further preventative measures to ensure the physical and mental well-being of young girls, it shouldn’t come as any surprise. Anyone who has driven past billboards or seen television shows and commercials can note how there is a very small margin of looks that are considered beautiful by our society, and a lot of the value we give ourselves as people has to do with our physical appearances. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that people who don’t fit in the societal category of ‘beautiful’ would feel a sense of worthlessness and dissatisfaction. Similarly, it isn’t surprising that people who experience these feelings would have higher rates of anxiety and depression, as well as more suicide attempts.

This information should be used by scientists, healthcare providers, and school officials to help form preventative programs for these at-risk girls. As the researchers note, “Our results support the importance of developing prevention programs that are culturally relevant to individuals,” (Springer).

Different groups of young girls will struggle with different feelings of dissatisfaction about their appearances, and many of these are based in cultural differences. Therefore, it is imperative that there be a range of preventative measures available for these girls so that they can form a healthy foundation for both their physical and mental well being.

This study also highlights the circular nature of this problem: body dissatisfaction leads to psychiatric problems, these problems lead to binge-eating behavior, this behavior leads to dissatisfaction, and so on and so forth. Hopefully, preventative and intervention methods can be formed which would alleviate some of the unhappiness and distress these females seem to be under form a very young age.


Works Cited

Nauert, Rick. “Binge Eating May Signal Anxiety, Depression, & Suicide Risk .” 23 July 2013. PsychCentral. Web. 24 July 2013.

Springer. “Teen Eating Disorders Increase Suicide Risk.” 22 July 2013. ScienceDaily. Web. 24 July 2013.

“Young girls who binge eat likelier to commit suicide.” 23 July 2013. Deccan Chronicle. Web. 24 July 2013.



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Written by

A native New Yorker, Bre loves the California scene and writing for Treatment4Addiction. She has been writing content for T4A for five months, and loves to learn new things, form opinions, and send them out to the world. Her interests include dance, singing, acting, talking with friends, being a daughter, and being the best big sister she can to her 16 year old brother. After attending ASU for a few months, she is interested in taking cosmetology classes and exploring her options. She looks forward to learning all she can, and doing something positive with that knowledge and experience.

Filed under: Conditions and Disorders, Eating disorders, Research · Tags: anxiety and depression, binge eating, psychiatric problems, suicide attempts

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