Date of Award

8-2005

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Sandra T. Sigmon

Second Committee Member

Marie L. Hayes

Third Committee Member

Jeffrey E. Hecker

Abstract

Previous studies have identified negative affect as a trigger for binge eating. Although this relation has been well-documented, laboratory-based studies assessing affect-related maintenance models for BED are lacking. Emotional avoidance was investigated as a construct that may enhance understanding of the mechanisms through which negative affect leads to binge eating. It was hypothesized that individuals with BED would report greater emotional avoidance and demonstrate greater avoidance of emotional stimuli during experimental laboratory tasks. It was further hypothesized that individuals with BED would report stronger negative reactions to emotional stimuli compared to individuals with subclinical levels of BED (S-BED) and controls. Participants were 63 male and female college and community volunteers (21 BED, 21 S-BED, 21 controls). Following negative mood induction, participants rated their emotions and willingness to experience emotional, food-related, and neutral vignettes. Participants were also presented with emotional, neutral, and food-related images, and the amount of time they images, and the amount of time they spent viewing each image was recorded as a measure of their willingness to view the stimulus. Participants completed questionnaires and monitored their food intake and moods before and after eating for 14 days. Results indicated that individuals with BED reported the highest levels of emotional avoidance, fear of emotions, and emotional eating. Participants with BED reported greater negative emotions in response to emotional images and vignettes, and less willingness to experience negative situations compared to controls. No significant group differences were found for duration of time spent viewing images, or responses to food-related and neutral vignettes. Regarding daily monitoring, individuals with BED reported greater anxiety and depressed mood compared to controls before and after meals and overeating episodes. Results suggest that individuals with BED differ from those with S-BED and controls regarding their emotional experiences. Their mood states and reactions when presented with emotional stimuli suggest heightened levels of negative affect and more negative responses to emotions. Results provide support for previous hypotheses suggesting that emotional avoidance is a central factor in the maintenance of BED. Additional research is needed to better understand how individuals with BED respond to emotional stimuli.

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