Binge eating means eating larger amounts of food than most people would in a similar situation, in a short period of time. People with binge eating disorder have a different relationship with food. You feel like you’ve lost all control over how much you’re eating, like you can’t stop. In addition, you also experience shame, distress, guilt or become upset afterwards.
Binge eating disorder (BED) is not the same as overeating, as it is recurrent and more serious. You can also eat regularly for several months. You may try to hide your problem. Even your close friends and family members may not know you binge eat. Many people with binge eating disorder are overweight or obese.
You may often participate in on and off fasts. BED can affect anybody, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. In fact, research suggests equal percentages of males and females experience this disorder.
How is binge eating disorder different from bulimia nervosa?
Binge eating disorder is similar to, but not the same as bulimia nervosa. Unlike bulimia, if you have binge eating disorder, you don’t vomit or try other ways to get rid of calories. But you might try to limit how much food you eat between eating binges. Binge eating disorder is sometimes called compulsive overeating.
How common is binge eating disorder?
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), BED is the most common eating disorder in the United States. About 3.5 percent of adult women and 2 percent of adult men have binge eating disorder. For men, binge eating disorder is most common in mid-life, between the ages of 45 to 59. For women, binge eating disorder most commonly starts in early adulthood. Thus between the ages of 18 and 29. About 1.6 percent of teenagers are affected.
What causes binge eating disorder?
No one knows. It seems to run in families. However, scientists do know that about half of the people with the condition have had depression. But whether depression causes BED or the other way around is not clear. Furthermore, impulsive behavior and certain other emotional problems can be more common in people with BED. Many people who are binge eaters say that being angry, sad, bored, or worried can cause them to binge eat. Cultural attitudes about body shape and weight might also play a role.
What are the symptoms?
From time to time, most of us feel like we have eaten more than we should. But eating too much every now and then does not mean that you have binge eating disorder. If you have binge eating disorder, you may:
- Eat way too much in a short period of time (less than 2 hours) on a regular basis.
- Eat faster than normal
- Feel like you can’t stop eating.
- Eat so much that you feel painfully full.
- Feel very upset about their eating
- Eat a lot of food when they are not hungry
- Have feelings of low self-esteem
- Eat for emotional reasons, such as being sad, angry, lonely, or bored.Feel guilty, depressed, or disgusted after eating too much
- Avoiding social situations, particularly those involving food
- Eat alone or hide their eating
- Have a loss of desire for sex
- Hiding food in odd places such as under the bed
- Fear of the disapproval of others
- Self harm or suicide attempts
Although you might not have all of the symptoms of binge eating disorder, even a few symptoms can be a sign of a problem that needs treatment. If you have any of these symptoms, or someone you know does, talk to a doctor, friend, or family member about your concerns right away.
How do doctors diagnose BED?
A doctor can find out if you have binge eating disorder by asking questions about your eating habits and past health. Your doctor may also ask questions about your mental health and how you feel about food and the shape of your body. If you are overweight, your doctor may also do a physical examination to rule out problems caused by obesity.
How do doctors treat binge eating disorder?
Many people struggle with eating disorders for a long time. Some people try to keep it a secret or deny that they have a problem. In most cases, you will need treatment to get better. It may be hard for you to reach out for help because of how society thinks about overeating and being overweight.
But getting professional help can really help. You will develop great stress management techniques and lower the risk of long-term health problems. Doctors, counsellors and dieticians often work together to help those with eating disorders. Treatment most often involves some or all of the following:
Family support is very important to treatment success. It is important that family members understand the eating disorder and recognize its signs and symptoms. Members help to teach people techniques to monitor and change their eating habits. It also helps the way you respond to stress. It includes the whole family in the process of helping you.
It combines the approach of helping people change self-defeating thoughts along with changing their behavior. Counselling also helps you look at relationships you have with others. This also helps you work on areas that cause you anxiety. In some cases, doctors may prescribe medication to be used with therapy.
Is binge eating unhealthy?
Yes. Binge eating has been linked to the following conditions:
- Menstrual disorders
- Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Gallbladder disease
It can take a while to get back on a healthier track with eating but it’s worth the investment in your long-term physical and emotional health. Treatment can take several months or longer while the person learns how to have a healthier approach to food.
For some family members, the long road to recovery can be frustrating and expensive. Get support for yourself through parents groups or by reading about the disorder. This way, you can help your your family get through this.