Social anxiety and self-consciousness in binge eating disorder: associations with eating disorder psychopathology

Compr Psychiatry. 2012 Aug;53(6):740-5. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2011.10.003. Epub 2011 Dec 5.


Objective: Research has consistently shown that anxiety disorders are common among individuals with eating disorders. Although social phobia has been found to be highly associated with eating disorders, less is known about social anxiety in individuals with binge eating disorder (BED). The present study examined associations between social anxiety and self-consciousness with body mass index (BMI) and eating disorder psychopathology in BED.

Methods: Participants were 113 overweight or obese treatment-seeking men and women with BED. Participants were administered semistructural diagnostic clinical interviews and completed a battery of self-report measures.

Results: Social anxiety was positively and significantly correlated with shape and weight concerns and binge eating frequency. After accounting for depressive levels, social anxiety and self-consciousness accounted for significant variance in eating, shape, and weight concerns and overall eating disorder global severity scores (Eating Disorder Examination). Social anxiety also accounted for significant variance in binge eating frequency after covarying for depressive levels. Social anxiety and self-consciousness were not significantly associated with BMI or dietary restraint.

Discussion: Our findings suggest that greater social anxiety and heightened self-consciousness are associated with greater eating disorder psychopathology, most notably with greater shape and weight concerns and binge eating frequency in patients with BED. Social anxiety and self-consciousness do not appear to be merely functions of excess weight, and future research should examine whether they contribute to the maintenance of binge eating and associated eating disorder psychopathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / complications
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / complications
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / psychology*
  • Body Image*
  • Body Weight
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Overweight / complications
  • Overweight / psychology*
  • Phobic Disorders / complications
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology*
  • Self Concept