Binge eating is another eating disorder that people really don’t realise is a problem.
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating disorder is a psychiatric illness which causes one to overeat, typically at a discrete period. It is the most common eating disorder, and it often goes untreated. This article discusses how binge eating disorder can be treated and prevented.
Binge eating disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of consuming large amounts of food with a feeling of losing control. It is not followed by inappropriate compensatory behaviour, such as self-induced vomiting or laxative abuse.
Binge-eating disorder affects about 3.5% of women and 2% of men in the general population during their lifetime. Unlike bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder occurs most commonly among obese people and contributes to excessive caloric intake; it may be present in ≥ 30% of patients in some weight-reduction programs. Compared with people with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, those with binge-eating disorder are older and more likely to be male.
Binge eating disorder (BED) is a severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating.
Binge Eating Disorder Causes
It takes a combination of things to develop binge eating disorder, including your genes, emotions, and experience.
- Social and cultural risk factors. Social pressure to be thin can add to the way you feel and fuel your emotional eating.
- Psychological risk factors. Depression and binge eating are strongly linked. Low self-esteem, loneliness, and body dissatisfaction may also contribute to binge eating.
- Biological risk factors. Biological abnormalities can contribute to binge eating. For example, the hypothalamus (the part of your brain that controls appetite) may not be sending correct messages about hunger and fullness.
Effects of binge eating disorder
Binge eating leads to a wide variety of physical, emotional, and social problems. You’re more likely to suffer health issues, stress, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts than someone without an eating disorder. You may also experience depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, and substantial weight gain.
Symptoms and Signs of Binge Eating Disorder
During a binge episode, people eat a much larger amount of food than most people would eat at a similar time under similar circumstances. During and after a binge, people feel as if they have lost control.
Binge eating is not followed by purging (by inducing vomiting, misusing laxatives, diuretics, or enemas), excessive exercising, or fasting. Binge eating occurs in episodes; it does not involve constant overeating (“grazing”).
People with binge-eating disorder are distressed by it. Mild to moderate depression and preoccupation with body shape, weight, or both are more common in obese people with the binge-eating disorder than in people of similar weight who do not binge eat.
Binge Eating Disorder Diagnosis
Clinical criteria for diagnosis of binge-eating disorder require that;
- Binge eating occurs, on average, at least once/week for 3 months
- Patients have a sense of lack of control overeating
In addition, ≥ 3 of the following must be present:
- Eating much more rapidly than normal
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
- Eating alone because of embarrassment
- Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating
Binge-eating disorder is differentiated from bulimia nervosa (which also involves binge eating) by the absence of compensatory behaviours (example: self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives or diuretics, excessive exercise, fasting).
Binge eating disorder recovery tips
Binge eating recovery Tip 1: Develop a healthier relationship with foodRecovery from any addiction is challenging, but it can be especially difficult to overcome binge eating and food addiction. Unlike other addictions, your “drug” is necessary for survival, so you don’t have the option of avoiding or replacing it. Instead, you need to develop a healthier relationship with food—a relationship that’s based on meeting your nutritional needs, not your emotional ones.
To do this, break the binge eating cycle by:
- Avoiding temptation.
- Listening to your body.
- Eating regularly.
- Not avoiding fat.
- Fighting boredom.
- Focusing on what you’re eating.
Instead of dieting, focus on eating in moderation. Find nutritious foods that you enjoy and eat only until you feel content, not uncomfortably stuffed. Avoid banning or restricting certain foods, as this can make you crave them even more.
Tip 2: Find better ways to feed your feelingsOne of the most common reasons for binge eating is an attempt to manage unpleasant emotions such as stress, depression, loneliness, fear, and anxiety. Identify your triggers with a food and mood diary. One of the best ways to identify the patterns behind your binge eating is to keep track of a food and mood diary.
Learn to tolerate the feelings that trigger your binge eating
- Identify the emotion you’re feeling.
- Dig deeper.
- Distance yourself.
- Sitting with your feelings may feel extremely uncomfortable at first.
Tip 3: Take back control of cravingsSometimes it feels like the urge to binge hits without warning. But even when you’re in the grip of an uncontrollable urge, there are things you can do to help yourself stay in control.
- Accept the urge and ride it out, instead of trying to fight it.
- Distract yourself.
- Talk to someone.
- Delay, delay, delay.
Tip 4: Support yourself with healthy lifestyle habitsWhen you’re physically strong, relaxed, and well-rested, you’re better able to handle the curveballs that life inevitably throws your way.
How to help someone with binge eating disorder?
Since binge eaters often try to hide their symptoms and eat in secret, it can make it tough for family and friends to spot the warning signs. And you can’t always identify a binge eater by appearance, either. While some are obese, others maintain a normal weight.
The warning signs that you can spot include finding piles of empty food packages and wrappers, cupboards and refrigerators that have been cleaned out, or hidden stashes of high-calorie or junk food. If you suspect that your loved one has a binge eating disorder, bring up your concerns. It may seem daunting to start such a delicate conversation, and the person may deny bingeing or become angry and defensive. But there’s a chance that he or she will welcome the opportunity to share the struggle.
If the person shuts you out at first, don’t give up; it may take some time before your loved one will admit to having a problem. And remember: as difficult as it is to know that someone you love may have an eating disorder, you can’t force someone to change. The decision to seek recovery has to come from them. You can help by offering your compassion, encouragement, and support throughout the treatment process.
Binge Eating Disorder Treatment
Binge eating disorder has only recently been given an individual definition, previously falling under the umbrella of “other eating disorders”. However, like all eating disorders, it should be taken seriously and treated with the help of a GP or psychologist.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy sometimes interpersonal psychotherapy
Cognitive-behavioural therapy is the most studied and best-supported treatment for binge-eating disorder. But interpersonal psychotherapy appears equally effective; both result in remission rates of ≥ 60%, and improvement is usually well-maintained over the long term. These treatments do not produce significant weight loss in obese patients.
While many people associate eating disorders with losing weight, people with binge eating disorder may experience weight gain because of binges. This does not mean you shouldn’t seek treatment. Remember, people of all sizes, shapes and appearances can have an eating disorder and treatment will help you address the core reasons the bingeing takes place.
Recovery is a challenge, but it is easy as continuing to live with the wrath of eating disorder.
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About The Author
Trishna Patnaik, a BSc (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification, but an artist by choice. A self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practising art for over 14 years. After she had a professional stint in various reputed corporates, she realised she wanted to do something more meaningful. She found her true calling in her passion that is painting. Trishna is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest. She says, “It’s a road less travelled but a journey that I look forward to everyday.” Trishna also conducts painting workshops across Mumbai and other metropolitan cities of India.
Trishna is an art therapist and healer. She works with clients on a one-on-one basis in Mumbai.
Trishna fancies the art of creative writing and is dappling her hands in that too, to soak in the experience and have an engagement with readers, wanderers and thinkers.
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