You might have seen a commercial or two on television over the past couple years advertising medications to help people who are dealing with Binge Eating Disorder (BED). What those commercials fail to explain, however, is that BED is a serious and life-threatening disorder that effects both men and women and is three times more common than both bulimia and anorexia combined. Many people might not even be aware that they have BED.
The good news about BED is that it is highly treatable. There are numerous eating disorder therapists and support groups who are able to offer insight and support.
What Is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge Eating Disorder is most commonly characterized by a tendency to overeat or to consume large amounts of food while feeling unable to control eating habits. These binge eating episodes generally happen at least twice a week and endure for six months or longer.
BED often occurs in those who are at a normal weight, but it can develop into weight gain and even obesity. Those with BED often experience feelings of guilt, shame, and disgust with themselves. So there is a high comorbidity of depression and anxiety. Food is often the coping mechanism for dealing with these difficult feelings. So there is a continuously active vicious cycle of binge eating, negative feelings, and more binge eating as a way to cope with those feelings.
Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
Family, friends, and co-workers often don’t know of these symptoms, since those with BED experience feelings of guilt, shame, and disgust. Typically, eating binges occur in secret within a two-hour time frame and involve very rapid consumption of food. Some of the most commonly noted symptoms of BED include:
- Continuing to eat, even when feeling full;
- Feeling unable to control what is eaten or to stop eating when full;
- Stockpiling food (sometimes in a secret location) to eat in secrecy at a later time;
- Eating normally when around other people but binge-eating when alone;
- Feeling like eating is the only way to relieve stress or anxiety;
- Feeling a lack or sensation of numbness while binge-eating;
- Never feeling full regardless of how much food is consumed.
The results of these symptoms are social, psychological, and physical. Those with BED can develop sleep disturbances, hypertension, gallbladder disease, gastrointestinal issues, and Type 2 diabetes.
Causes of Binge Eating Disorder
As with many disorders, the root cause of BED is still unknown, although it is the subject of many scientific research projects. There are, however, three main factors thought to influence BED.
- The first of these is the biological factor. Genetic mutations, hormonal irregularities, and autoimmune disorders seem to have ties to BED. Autoimmune disorders, for example, are thought to be strong indicators for BED and other eating disorders.
- Those with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack its own tissues) have reported issues with binge eating disorder stemming from childhood, likely due to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies that develop within the body.
- Also, binge-eating has a psychological component. Depression, dissatisfaction with one’s body, and a low self-esteem can contribute to binge-eating.
- The above tends to mix with the third factor, which is social and cultural. Those who have endured traumatic experiences, who have felt socially pressured into being thin, or who have been received multiple negative comments about their bodies can develop BED.
Other Issues Related to Binge Eating Disorder
Those with Binge Eating Disorder often experience problems with adapting to their social roles. BED may be the most common eating disorder in the United States (as it can impact roughly 2.8 million Americans). However, it most commonly occurs in women during early adulthood and midlife men.
Specialists only recognized it as a disorder in 2013. So there is still a lot of work to which needs to take place in order to understand why BED occurs. Theu need to also find the ways in which it impacts the social, psychological, and physical well-being of those who have it.
Binge Eating Disorder Treatment Options
This is a relatively new diagnosable disorder. But treatment options are available and are showing great potential for success. Since the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition began classifying BED as a diagnosable disorder in 2013, there has been a greater awareness of BED among those in the field of psychology and more professionals are becoming trained to diagnose and treat BED.
- It is absolutely crucial for anyone with BED to find a clinician who knows how to work with eating disorders, specifically with BED. Having a team of knowledgeable and supportive health care professionals provides those with BED the best opportunity for recovery.
- The team of specialists who can cure BED includes a primary care physician or functional doctor, psychologist or therapist, psychiatrist, and nutritionist.
- Treatment focuses on reducing binge-eating habits, addressing emotional and social factors, and taking steps toward long-term recovery by setting goals and establishing meal plans.
Binge Eating Disorder in Popular Culture
Actress Candace Cameron Bure (of Full House fame) has been open about her struggles with binge-eating. At a 2016 #EatingRecoveryDay panel, Bure told others that she had fallen into a cycle of binge-eating. She mentioned that she was feeling intense sensations of guilt and shame for her binge-eating.
She went to the extent of purging due to her feelings of shame and guilt and stated that she felt totally out-of-control for a while. Since then, Bure has regained control over her life and eating habits. Now, she channels her feelings into healthy eating and exercise.
Binge Eating Disorder is invasive and life-controlling. But there are ways for those with BED to regain control. Treatment from a team of professionals who are well-versed in eating disorders can be effective for many people.
If you suspect that you have BED, there is no shame in reaching out for help.
The images are from depositphotos.com.