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Binge Eating Disorder: What It Is and How to Treat It

Binge Eating DisorderBinge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States, affecting as many as four million people. It seems to appear most often in adults between the ages of 46 to 55, and it is more common in women than in men.

People with binge eating disorder often eat an unusually large amount of food and may feel that their relationship with food is out of control. Unlike in some other eating disorders, binge eaters do not purge after eating, and because of this, many people with this disorder are severely overweight or obese. Binge eating disorder was only recently recognized as an authentic eating disorder, and more research needs to be done into its causes and treatments.

Characteristics of Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is more than just overeating occasionally. Like other eating disorders, BED is an “expressive disorder,” meaning that it is an expression of deeper psychological issues. If you suspect you or a loved one may be suffering from this disorder, there are some signs you should watch for:

  • Eating large amounts of food (far more than an average person would eat) at one time
  • Feels a loss of control while binging
  • Eats much more quickly than normal during binge episodes
  • Often eats alone or secretively
  • Feels guilty or depressed about food
  • Eats large amounts of food even when not hungry
  • Eats until physically uncomfortable or nauseated

Causes of Binge Eating Disorder

There is no one obvious cause of binge eating disorder, and research is being done into several factors that may influence binge eating:

  • Depression – Many people (about half) with BED are depressed or have been depressed at some point in the past. At this point, it is unclear whether depression causes BED or BED causes depression.
  • Dieting – Frequently people with BED are frequent dieters, though their methods are often those that are considered unhealthy in and of themselves. They feel guilty about their relationship with food and may try to gain some control by skipping meals or not eating enough food each day.
  • Emotions – It is thought that binge eaters may have trouble dealing with some of their emotions, including boredom, sadness, worry, and stress.
  • Genetic factors – Initial research indicates that there is at least some genetic component to binge eating. How the brain handles metabolism and changes may affect whether or not someone has BED.

Treatments for Binge Eating

Binge eating disorder is a true disorder and should be treated as such. There are a number of severe risk factors that go along with this disease, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Although most people who have this disorder are overweight or obese, people with an average weight may be affected as well.

Binge eating treatment may involve a combination of therapy, nutritional advice, cognitive training, and medication. Since this is such an individual disorder, patients are treated on a case by case basis and there is no one fixed treatment pattern. Some people may find it helpful to recover in the presence of family and friends with the support of doctors and overeating groups. Others may find more success by retreating to specialized binge eating disorder treatment centers where they can put their entire focus on recovery.

It’s important to remember that BED does not usually get better by itself. If you suspect you or a loved one suffers from this disorder, you should seek treatment from residential eating disorder treatment centers, doctors, or psychologists as soon as possible.

image by University of Pennsylvania

Related posts:

Enjoying Your Holiday Season Despite an Eating Disorder
How Eating Disorders Differ for Men and Women

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