Shared and unique mechanisms underlying binge eating disorder and addictive disorders (2016)

Clin Psychol Rev. 2016 Mar;44:125-39. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2016.02.001. Epub 2016 Feb 4.

Schulte EM1, Grilo CM2, Gearhardt AN3.


Scientific interest in “food addiction” is growing, but the topic remains controversial. One critique of “food addiction” is its high degree of phenotypic overlap with binge eating disorder (BED). In order to examine associations between problematic eating behaviors, such as binge eating and “food addiction,” we propose the need to move past examining similarities and differences in symptomology. Instead, focusing on relevant mechanisms may more effectively determine whether “food addiction” contributes to disordered eating behavior for some individuals. This paper reviews the evidence for mechanisms that are shared (i.e., reward dysfunction, impulsivity) and unique for addiction (i.e., withdrawal, tolerance) and eating disorder (i.e., dietary restraint, shape/weight concern) frameworks. This review will provide a guiding framework to outline future areas of research needed to evaluate the validity of the “food addiction” model and to understand its potential contribution to disordered eating.

KEYWORDS: Binge eating disorder; Eating disorders; Food addiction; Substance use disorders