Most people have experienced at least one time in their life when they’ve eating too much in a single sitting. This often happens during the holidays or when having an after meal desert that simply makes the stomach overly full. But this isn’t binge eating, this is overeating. Binge eating is similar except that binge eaters cannot control their habits of overeating and tend to repeat the excessive eating multiple times essentially getting stuck in a cycle of binging on foods to cope with stress or other emotions.
What is Binge Eating
Binge eating is a means of eating too much food in a very short period of time. People who eat excessive amounts of food on a regular basis and who suffer from a lack of control over their eating habits are likely suffering from binge eating disorder. Binge eaters will gorge themselves on food, often consuming enough food for a few days in a matter of just a few hours.
This disorder causes the individual to feel ashamed and distant from others. Most people who suffer from binge eating disorder will binge on foods and then later feel guilty, ashamed or unhappy with their actions. Despite the concern that their binge eating is problematic, most binge eaters don’t know where to turn for help.
Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating has an array of symptoms that can range from compulsive overeating to extreme stress or distress associated with the thought of food. People who suffer from this condition often have uncontrollable episodes of binging on food followed by anguish and distress that results from the shame that is felt after eating so much food. Binge eating is an eating disorder, but unlike Builmia, binge eating does not include periods of attempting to fast or make up for the over consumption of food.
Binge eaters are often embarrassed or ashamed of their condition and do not like to eat around others. Most will hide their eating habits in an effort to prevent others from knowing what is going on or what they are doing. Some binge eaters are overweight but being overweight or obese is not necessarily a sign of binge eating disorder nor is it a necessary symptom.
- Lack of control over eating habits
- Eating large quantities of food in a single sitting
- Eating large amounts of food throughout the day without any specific meal times planned
- Compulsive eating
- Storing large amounts of food to be eaten at a later time, possibly in privacy when others are not around
- Hiding food so that others won’t know that it is there
- Eating food even after you are already full
- Eating to cover up emotions such as stress or depression
- Feeling upset, ashamed or embarrassed about eating habits
- Feeling like you just can’t eat enough even when you consume large quantities of food
- Wishing you could lose weight but allowing eating habits to interfere with your ability to lose weight
Do I Suffer from Binge Eating Disorder?
You may be wondering if you suffer from binge eating disorder. If you are unsure still whether you suffer from binge eating disorder, consider the following questions; if you answer yes to more than 3 of the following questions, you are likely suffering from an eating disorder such as binge eating:
- Do you feel like you have to eat when you’re happy, sad, mad or anxious?
- Do you feel like you have no control over your eating habits, like you cannot control yourself around food?
- Do you feel like food is the only thing that can make you happy—but even when you eat you don’t feel better?
- Is food the primary thought on your mind most of the day?
- Is food a distraction from other priorities or responsibilities for you?
- Do you hide the amount of food that you eat?
- Do you hide food so that you can consume it later?
- Do you wish you could stop overeating?
- Have you tried to stop overeating before and later binged on food once again?
- Do you feel upset about your eating habits?
Effects of Binge Eating Disorder
An array of physical and emotional complications can arise when binge eating takes control of one’s life. The health issues, emotional distress, social upset and overall trauma that results from this eating disorder can complicate the process of coping with other issues that may be at the root of the problem or which may be further escalated by the eating disorder. Depression and anxiety run rampant in those who suffer from eating disorders, distracting them from the reality of their condition and often making it difficult for the individual to recognize the real need for help.
Binge eating can lead to obesity, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and an array of gastrointestinal problems. Binge eating may also cause problems with physical activity, could lead to heart disease and is often responsible for the development of certain types of cancer that are related to obesity or poor diet.
What Causes Binge Eating?
No single element in an individual’s life is responsible for a binge eating disorder. Most people who suffer from this eating disorder develop the condition as a result of a combination of different factors such as genetic predisposition, emotional trauma, individual experience and social repurcussions.
Binge eating may be:
- Biological – caused as a result of abnormal genetic makeup within the body such as a problem with the hypothalamus or problems with the chemical composition of the brain. Low serotonin levels can be the cause of binge eating as can genetic mutations.
- Social – caused by pressure to adhere to social norms can cause binge eating. Emotional eating is often fueled by emotional upset that is directly related to social influences.
- Psychological – caused by various emotional elements such as anxiety, depression or other psychological issues that lead to an increased desire to eat in an effort to control feelings.
Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder
Unhealthy eating patterns can be eliminated with the right medical intervention and supportive care. Eating healthy is the first step to overcoming a binge eating disorder but it isn’t always an easy change to make. People who suffer from binge eating disorder often require professional treatment in order to help them curb their poor eating habits, stop cravings that cause them to overeat and learn how to cope with the emotional elements of the eating disorder in a way that promotes healthy, positive change.
Professional treatment for binge eating disorder may include:
- Therapy that focuses on teaching the individual how to fight the urge to overeat and how to counteract that urge with healthier choices.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy that helps to changes dysfunctional thoughts about eating into positive thoughts and positive behaviors.
- Dialectical behavioral therapy that uses a combination of behavioral therapy and meditation to place emphasis on improved tolerance and self-acceptance.
- Support groups that provide peer support and emotional help from others who also suffer from eating disorders or who have been through similar conditions in their past.
- Medical intervention that may provide proper treatment for underlying mental or physical health conditions that are responsible for the binge eating habits.
If you or someone you know suffers from binge eating disorder, it’s important to seek professional help in order to prevent further damage from occurring as a result of this disorder. Consulting a primary care doctor, mental health provider or rehabilitation specialist may be the first step that you can take in the right direction—the direction to happiness, health and freedom from binge eating.