The conversation around eating disorders usually focuses on anorexia or bulimia. But not every eating disorder is about limiting food intake. About 5% of people with eating disorders suffer from binge eating disorder (BED), which causes individuals to eat unhealthy quantities of food in short time periods.
What Is Binge Eating Disorder?
Individuals with BED feel they have little control over their binges, which is when they eat large amounts of food in a short amount of time. These binges are usually the result of trauma or emotional distress. The binging aspect of BED is similar to other eating disorder, notably bulimia, but unlike bulimic binges, people with binge eating disorder don’t follow with a purge, such as throwing up or taking laxatives like bulimics do.
Identifying and diagnosing BED can be difficult. That is because everyone binges and eats more than they should on some occasions. However, if these episodes occur weekly, this is likely a sign that it is an eating disorder and not just over indulgence. Here are a few other symptoms of binge eating disorder to look for:
- Recurrent binge eating episodes (weekly)
- Eating past point of fullness
- Eating when not hungry
- Eating quickly or rapidly
- Not experiencing taste or other eating sensations
- Feeling shame or guilt after a binge
- Eating alone or in private
- Hiding evidence of binging
When binging is followed by purging or food restrictions it might not be BED but rather anorexia or bulimia. Part of the reason eating disorders are so hard to diagnose is that many eating disorders share the same symptoms. It’s always important to find a professional psychiatrist to treat and diagnose the disorder so that they get the right help.
The exact cause of BED isn’t known. However, research is continuing to look into this. Here are a few possible causes:
- Psychological disorders and stress
- Untreated mental health issue
- Rigid diet practices
- Age and gender (middle aged women are more prone to this disorder)
- Biology and genetics
Every eating disorder has serious health risks and binge eating disorder is no different. Weight gain is the most obvious danger with this disorder. Many people with BED gain large quantities of weight. This increased their risk of other ailments like osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, cardiovascular issues, and others. Psychological risks are also associated with this disorder. Due to the guilt and shame, people with BED feel they may develop depression, self-hatred, or low self-esteem.
There are secondary consequences to weight gain too. Research has consistently proven that society discriminates overweight individuals. This means they get fewer jobs with lower salaries. They are also subject to bullying and inadequate health care.
The good news is that binge eating disorder is treatable. Florida psychiatrists say treatment is similar to other eating disorders. It usually involves a combination of therapy and medication. The first step is to always stabilize any other ailments caused by the disorder such as heart issues or diabetes.
Therapy is highly effective in treating BED. It works to uncover the reasons behind the binges and teaching coping with food cravings and emotions distress. Medication may also be recommended.