Binge eating as escape from self-awareness

Psychol Bull. 1991 Jul;110(1):86-108. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.110.1.86.


This article proposes that binge eating is motivated by a desire to escape from self-awareness. Binge eaters suffer from high standards and expectations, especially an acute sensitivity to the difficult (perceived) demands of others. When they fall short of these standards, they develop an aversive pattern of high self-awareness, characterized by unflattering views of self and concern over how they are perceived by others. These aversive self-perceptions are accompanied by emotional distress, which often includes anxiety and depression. To escape from this unpleasant state, binge eaters attempt the cognitive response of narrowing attention to the immediate stimulus environment and avoiding broadly meaningful thought. This narrowing of attention disengages normal inhibitions against eating and fosters an uncritical acceptance of irrational beliefs and thoughts. The escape model is capable of integrating much of the available evidence about binge eating.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Image
  • Bulimia / psychology*
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Diet, Reducing / psychology
  • Escape Reaction*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia / psychology*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Environment