Almost all of us are guilty of overeating, you know- going for seconds or thirds especially during those special holiday meals. However, for some people, this can get out of control, become a regular episode to the point that it actually becomes a disorder often referred to as Binge eating disorder (BED).
Binge eating is a disorder which involves consumption of unusually large quantities of food. However, it’s vital to draw a distinction between this disorder and overindulging-consuming large amounts of food: the former is a serious eating disorder, characterized by recurring and unmanageable overeating.
According to Rosewood, Centers for Eating Disorders, a majority of people suffering from this condition frequently experience feelings of loss of control especially when it comes to their eating habits-usually overindulging even when they get physically full. Normally, this disorder is used as a coping mechanism for negative and uncomfortable feelings e.g. stress or anxiety.
Symptoms of binge eating
Binge eating is characterized by emotional, behavioral and psychological signs. However, a person suffering from this disorder does not necessarily need to have or show all of the signs and symptoms listed below: therefore, it’s very important to seek medical assistance if you are worried about yourself or a loved one.
- Eating throughout the day without any planned meal times.
- Proof of excessive consumption of foods indicated by empty food wrappers and containers or disappearance of large quantities of food within a short period of time.
- Periodic fasting and following any new food practice such as fad diets, vegetarianism or veganism.
- Develops a fear of eating in public or around others.
- Steals and hoards food in weird places.
- Withdraws from friends and the usual activities.
- Frequently dieting without losing any weight.
- Becoming extremely concerned about body weight and shape.
- Constantly experiencing feelings of shame, sadness or worthlessness before and after an episode of bingeing.
- Develops perfectionistic tendencies.
- Develops low self-esteem.
- Constant weight fluctuations (weight gain or loss).
- Problems concentrating.
- High cholesterol level.
- Pain in the joints.
- Becomes depressed.
- Experiencing anxiety.
- Individuals suffering from BED usually experience feelings of shame, guilt, disgust, and distress.
- Loss discipline and control
However, if you suspect that a loved one may be suffering from this disorder be mindful of the common signs and symptoms: people suffering from this condition usually experience several of the symptoms on a weekly basis, therefore keep a close eye for at least 3 months for the following symptoms:
- frequent eating episodes.
- Rapid eating
- Discrete excessive munching usually due to embarrassment because of the large portions of food being consumed.
- Weight fluctuations.
- Low self-esteem.
- Frequent dieting.
- Low or lack of a sexual desire.
- Feeling of guilt.
- Munching constantly without being physically hungry until uncomfortably full.
When to see a doctor
If you or your loved one is experiencing any signs and symptoms, it’s important to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Binge eating hardly gets better without treatment.
Consult your primary health provider or a mental health provider about the symptoms and emotions you are experiencing. However, if you feel embarrassed or reluctant to seek help, talk to somebody you can trust (Friend, teacher or a loved one).
NOTE: a person suffering from this disorder may be an expert at concealing the behavior, making it impossible to discover. Therefore, if you want to help a loved one, whom you feel is suffering from this disorder, initiate an open and honest discussion about your concerns, provide support and encouragement and help them find a qualified health practitioner or mental health provider and make an immediate appointment.
Binge eating disorder causes and risk factors
There are no scientifically proven evidence about the causes of binge eating, however, popular belief claims that mostly genetics, psychological issues, long-term dieting and other biological factors play an integral role in increasing the risk:
- Psychological issues: psychological triggers such as stress, anxiety, lack of self-esteem, poor body self-image. Basically, just any negative feelings about themselves and/or their accomplishments cause people to binge eat as a coping mechanism: in most cases, the people suffering from this disorder, unfortunately, lack the proper fundamental tools required to deal with negative and uncomfortable feelings in a healthy and constructive manner.
- Age: the age of a person plays a very big role. Despite the fact that this disorders can affect anyone at whatever age, it’s usually common in the late teens and early 20s.
- Family history: apparently, you are more likely to suffer from an eating disorder if one of your family members-parents or siblings had it. This indicates that inherited genes increase the risk of suffering from an eating disorder.
- Dieting: a history of dieting will most likely trigger an eating disorder later on in life: this is because of the dieting and the calories restrictions induce an urge to binge eat especially for those people battling with self-esteem issues as well as depression.
Treatment and cure options
As I mentioned earlier, BED does not get better on its own, it requires treatment. Many people have successfully recovered from the disorder with time and the right support. These treatment options include:
- Guided self-help programs: this involves reading materials about this disorder and attending therapy sessions for support.
- Attending a talking therapy which can either be group oriented or one-on-one sessions normally referred to as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy): This session usually involves talking to a therapist while exploring your thought patterns, feelings, and behaviors that could be root causes of your eating disorder. The program largely focusses on triggers of this disorder, helps create an eating plan for the day in order to adopt a healthy eating habit and helps to manage and alter any negative feelings about your body image and accomplishments.
- Medication: antidepressants in combination with a self-help treatment or therapy can also help a person overcome binge eating disorder and the associated signs and symptoms.
However, antidepressants are hardly prescribed to people under the age of 18 years.