One study searched for connections to personality profiles.
The DSM-5 outlined a specific group of symptoms of the night eating syndrome, or NES, and assigned it to the category of other specified feeding or eating disorders, or OSFED (DSM 5. 2013. American Psychiatric Publishing, Washington, DC). This pattern can cause significant distress and or can affect general functioning (Ann NY Acad Sci. 2018. 1411:96). NES has been found to be a risk factor for earlier onset of obesity and is related to higher-than-usual rates of depression and lower self-esteem (Int J Eat Disord. 2009. 42:720).
We still know relatively little about night eating syndrome, at least compared to what we know about BED or BN. This is striking, in that Albert Stunkard actually described night eating a few years before he first described binge eating (and of course, both were described 20 or more years before BN).Two recent studies help to further explain and illuminate NES.
Searching for personality traits in women with NES, BN, and BED
A team headed by Natasha D. Melunsky at University College, London, and her colleagues in Christchurch, New Zealand, analyzed an outpatient psychotherapy trial of 111 women with BN or BED to see if personality disorders were associated with NES symptoms (Eat Weight Disord. 2022. 27:803). The authors noted that little research is available that has measured any associations between personality traits and NES. Pre-treatment measures of personality traits were measured with the Temperament and Character Inventory-Revised and night eating symptoms were recorded with the Night Eating Diagnostic Questionnaire (www.researchgate.net/publication/319186992 ). Regression analysis was used to test for associations between the two variables of night eating and BN or BED, and adjusted for age, ethnicity, and other variables.
The authors reported finding associations between high harm avoidance, low self-directedness, and increased NES symptoms. The authors feel that there is a need for greater knowledge of the influence of personality traits in NES in persons with EDs. Future studies and longitudinal research may help clarify which personality traits are associated with NES and also to validate low cooperativeness in those with and without comorbid EDs.
Night eating, obesity, and BED
In a second study, Dr. Jasmine Kaur and colleagues at the University of Melbourne performed a systematic review of studies of people with NES, including only studies that were published since 2013 (after the DSM-5 categorized NES) (Front Psychol. 2022. 12:766827). No sociodemographic correlates associated with NES could be shown. However, those with NES had elevated ED pathology, including emotional eating, loss of control eating, and a higher occurrence of depressive symptoms compared to controls.
The review suggested that the presence of body concerns and binge-eating episodes were hallmarks distinguishing BED from NES. As a result of their findings, Dr. Kaur and colleagues recommend studying NES as an independent entity, to further establish its diagnostic criteria and treatment options.