Many people in the United States suffer from eating disorders. Binge eating disorder is one of the most common eating disorders in the United States. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, binge eating is “characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food.” People with binge eating disorder often feel a loss of control during these recurrent episodes.
What are the signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder?
An episode of binge eating will often include three or more symptoms including:
- Feelings of guilt
- Eating large quantities when not physically hungry
- Eating more rapidly than normal
- Frequently eating in secret or alone
- Becoming uncomfortably full and continuing to eat
- Eating large quantities in short periods of time
People with binge eating disorder will frequently try dieting, often with no success in weight loss or in changing their body shape. Many people with binge eating disorder often struggle with other disordered eating behaviors, including restrictive or harmful dieting programs, the development of food rituals or impulsive eating habits. The severity of the binge eating disorder is determined by frequency of episodes of binge eating.
According to The National Institute of Mental Health, “these disorders affect both genders although rates among women are higher than rates among men.” The National Institute of Mental Health states that, “eating disorders are caused by a complex interaction of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors.” People with binge eating disorder may also suffer from other mental health problems including depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.
Issues with body image or with low self-esteem may be another symptom people with binge eating disorder suffer from. Due to weight fluctuations from erratic eating habits, people with binge eating disorder may experience a frequently changing body shape. A frequently changing body shape may prevent a person from developing a stable body image which can result in low self-esteem or body dysmorphia.
Many studies have found that people with binge eating disorder often struggle with impulsivity. People with binge eating disorder may suffer from both negative urgency and positive urgency. Negative urgency is the desire to act impulsively in the face of negative emotions. Negative urgency can be seen in people with binge eating disorder when they self-soothe with food or comfort eat. Feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, or stress may cause negative urgency in people with binge eating disorder which will result in episodes of binge eating. Positive urgency is the desire to act impulsively when experiencing positive emotions. This may be seen in celebrations involving food, food as rewards, or the desire to self-sabotage when experiencing a positive period in one’s life.
These impulsive tendencies are also what tends to result in problems with substance abuse and other poor coping mechanisms. The impulsivity manifests as a loss of control around food or substances. Treatment of binge eating disorder looks at managing those symptoms and the episodes of binge eating while dealing with the triggers and causes of the binge eating disorder.
Treatment of binge eating disorder often requires that one visit a medical professional or mental health professional. Psychotherapy, medical care or monitoring, nutritional counseling or medications are all used as eating disorder treatment and may help with the treatment of binge eating disorder.
Effective treatment of binge eating disorder focuses on the treatment of the emotional and psychological triggers of episodes of binge eating. A focus on weight loss is not an effective treatment of binge eating disorder and is not effective in any eating disorder treatment. Specialty psychotherapy treatment like cognitive behavioral treatment, nutritional rehabilitation, and the development of skills to combat bingeing episodes are all forms of more effective eating disorder treatment.