Binge eating is a common disorder with a cycle that can be challenging to break. Dr Sylvia Tang has spent over 29 years helping patients with a variety of psychological conditions, including binge eating disorders. Here, she explains this psychological disorder and clarifies how it can be overcome.
How common are cases of binge eating disorder (BED)?
Binge eating disorder (BED), sadly, is probably much more common than realised. Many people (especially young people) will engage in comfort eating which can develop into binge eating disorder - sometimes without them realising until some time later.
What are the possible causes of BED?
As a result of placing restrictions on normal meals, people can binge on foods often at night. This can get extreme and result in vomiting either spontaneously or forced purging (bulimia) as a result of discomfort from over-eating.
Sometimes, it can start as a comfort eating when low in mood, bored or anxious. This can then become habitual.
How do you define binge eating disorder?
This usually involves over-eating of carbohydrates such as biscuits, bread, crisps or chocolate. It can also involve extreme over-eating e.g. eating one loaf of bread, a packet of biscuits, multiple packets of crisps, a large bar of chocolate or a whole box of chocolates. Often, it is so uncomfortable afterwards that the only way to relieve the discomfort is to vomit. If this does not happen spontaneously, vomit is induced with fingers.
How can someone break a binge cycle?
The first thing to do would be to ensure that normal meals are being eaten in the day. Missing meals or restricting meals will lead to an increased desire to binge. Reinstating normal meals lessens the likelihood of wanting to binge and then it is really addressing the habitual element that needs to be tackled through cognitive behavioural therapy.
Is it possible to overcome BED and fully recover? How?
Treatment of any underlying conditions is essential, such as treating depression or trauma with CBT, antidepressants or therapy to improve confidence. Then, a good plan around eating is required which can be helped by a dietician. This is particularly helpful because often, people lose sight of normal eating patterns and portions. Antidepressants can also help if there is an obsessive element as this can lessen obsessional thinking.
Dr Tang can help you overcome binge eating with a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs – click here to learn more about her work and to arrange your first consultation.