Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Suzanne Mazzeo


Binge eating is a pervasive disordered eating behavior associated with numerous psychological and physical comorbidities. Preliminary research indicates that emotion regulation difficulties, behavioral impulsivity, and executive dysfunction may contribute to the onset and/or maintenance of these behaviors. However, few studies have utilized neuropsychological measures to examine this link, and the assessment of behavioral and cognitive emotion regulation strategies are limited in scope. The purpose of the current study was to gain a deeper understanding of the emotional, behavioral and cognitive processes associated with binge eating behavior. Greater clarity regarding how these factors relate to binge eating is critical to the development of effective treatment and prevention efforts. To address these aims, the current study examined the executive functioning, depression, behavioral impulsivity, distress tolerance, and emotion regulation strategies of 50 women engaging in weekly binge eating in the absence of compensatory behaviors; their outcomes were compared to 66 women with no history of binge eating. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that groups did not significantly differ in executive functioning after controlling for depression, state anxiety, body mass, psychopharmaceutical use, and general intelligence; nonetheless, correlation analyses suggest that, among the binge eating group, individuals endorsing more frequent binge eating might have greater difficulties thinking flexibly or shifting attention. Secondary analyses indicated that individuals who binge eat are more depressed, are more likely to engage in impulsive behavior (but only when distressed), have more difficulties tolerating distress, are more likely to engage in rumination, self-blame, and catastrophizing, and less likely to focus on the positive. Although the current study is unable to determine whether these cognitive, emotional, and behavioral factors precede or follow binge eating episodes, outcomes have clinical implications. Specifically, programs focused on the prevention and treatment of binge eating should help individuals learn to better identify and tolerate difficult affective states and to utilize more adaptive means of coping. Outcomes also provide important directions for future research, including longitudinal designs to better understand the temporal associations of the current study’s variables, as well as suggestions to broaden and standardize neuropsychological assessment and scoring procedures to facilitate comparisons across studies.


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VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2012