Eating disorders in lesbian and bisexual women: Relationship of binge eating to depressive symptoms, shame, distress tolerance, and internalized homophobia.
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There is limited research on specific factors influencing disordered eating for lesbian and bisexual women. Such research would inform culturally sensitive treatment of eating disorders in these populations. Depressive symptoms, shame, and distress intolerance are associated with binge eating. Internalized homophobia is associated with negative affect and shame and may be associated with binge eating. Lesbian and bisexual women may binge eat as a way to cope with depressive symptoms and shame that result from internalized homophobia, particularly for women with distress intolerance. This study investigated the relationship between internalized homophobia, shame, depression, distress tolerance, and binge eating in a sample of lesbian and bisexual women. Two primary research hypotheses were developed. First, it was hypothesized that shame and depression would mediate the relationships between several facets of internalized homophobia and binge eating. Second, it was hypothesized that distress tolerance would moderate both the relationship between shame and binge eating and the relationship between depression and binge eating in the mediation relationships proposed in the first hypothesis. Results revealed that depression was not a significant mediator for the relationships between the internalized homophobia variables and binge eating. Shame was a significant mediator for six of the internalized homophobia and binge eating relationships. Distress tolerance did not moderate the significant mediation relationships. The association of “outness” with internalized homophobia, depression, and shame was also investigated. Results revealed that the more an individual was out about her sexual orientation, the less depression, shame, and internalized homophobia she experienced. Limitations to this study, implications for conducting therapy with lesbian and bisexual women, and suggestions for future research are discussed.