What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating disorder is a type of eating disorder. It involves the consumption of large amounts of food in short periods of time, often even if the individual isn’t hungry. Most people overeat occasionally, often on holidays or special occasions. But, people with binge eating disorder feel unable to control their eating in an unhealthy way.
While binge eating disorder was only recently officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, it’s one of the most prevalent eating disorders today. It commonly starts during the late teen years or early 20s for women and during midlife for men.
Emotional distress is a common cause of binge eating episodes. While the binge may initially provide the individual a sense of relief, it’s typically followed by feelings of shame, guilt, and a loss of control. Additionally, people with binge eating disorder don’t often compensate for excess calories by purging, exercising excessively, or taking laxatives. This is the case with bulimia, another recognized eating disorder.
Binge eating disorder can be extremely damaging to your physical and mental health. Thankfully, this disorder is treatable. By seeking help, people with binge eating disorder can regain a feeling of control over their eating and lessen feelings of shame associated with eating.
Signs of Binge Eating Disorder
Recurring binge eating episodes are the key factor in a binge eating disorder diagnosis. Binge eating episodes occur within a two-hour window and involve consuming more food than the average person would eat in the same time frame. During a binge eating episode, one often feels unable to control what or how much they’re eating.
The following characteristics are common in a binge eating episode:
- Becoming full to the point of discomfort
- Eating more quickly than usual
- Eating high quantities of food without being hungry
- Eating alone for feelings of shame or embarrassment
- Feelings of disgust, guilt, or depression after eating
Other signs that are often present in people with binge eating disorder include:
- Fear or discomfort eating in front of others
- Disengaging from loved ones and regular activities
- Frequent dieting and/or fasting
- Irregular eating behaviors, such as skipping meals or eating at abnormal times
- Extreme concern over weight and body image
- Low self-esteem
- Food rituals, such as only eating one type of food/food group
- Weight fluctuations, both up and down
- Hoarding or hiding food
- Changes in routine to make time for binge eating episodes
- Distress over overeating and body weight
- Preoccupation with food, eating, and/or dieting
How is Binge Eating Disorder Treated?
Binge eating disorder can be detrimental to one’s physical and mental health. But, treatment can help you make a full recovery and repair your relationship with food.
Successful treatment methods binge eating disorder can vary from person to person. An individualized treatment plan is the best way to address a patient’s unique needs. Therapy and/or medications are the most common treatments for binge eating disorder.
Therapy for binge eating disorder may include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and dialectical behavior therapy. These are all forms of psychotherapy and aim to help patients replace negative thought patterns and behaviors with positive alternatives.
In cognitive behavioral therapy, people with binge eating disorder can gain a stronger sense of control over their behaviors and eating habits. Additionally, CBT is helpful in learning how to cope with binge-eating triggers, like depression and low self-esteem.
Interpersonal psychotherapy is centered on patients’ relationships with others. By strengthening one's interpersonal abilities, this therapy method aims to improve relationships and reduce stress caused by interactions with others. This can help people address potential triggers of binge eating episodes.
Dialectical behavioral therapy is helpful in the management of stress, negative emotions, and relationships. By reducing daily stressors and providing an outlet to process negative experiences, this therapy method can reduce the urge to binge eat.
Some medications have shown to help in the treatment of binge eating disorder. It’s important to talk about the potential risks and side effects of medications before adding them to your treatment plan for binge eating disorder.