Binge eating disorder

Specialty of Psychology

What is binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder is when people compulsively overeat on a regular basis. Typically people with this condition feel as though they cannot stop eating, even if they are not hungry. People with binge eating disorder are often using food as a means of coping with underlying emotions or pressures. Even though everyone has overeaten on occasion, what defines binge eating disorder is when this behaviour becomes compulsive and frequent.

What are the symptoms of binge eating disorder?

The symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Eating even if you are not hungry or feel full and feeling you cannot control how much you eat
  • Eating very large portions over a short period of time
  • Eating very quickly
  • Often eating alone or secretly
  • Feeling guilty or ashamed after binge eating
  • Struggles with losing weight healthily

Binge eating disorder is distinct from bulimia, as people with this disorder do not purge their food after eating by either making themselves sick, or abusing laxatives.

What causes binge eating disorder?

The causes of binge eating disorder are largely unknown, however, certain risk factors have been identified as increasing susceptibility to binge eating disorder. These risk factors include:

  • Age – onset usually starts in late teens or early 20s, however, any age can have binge eating disorder.
  • Genetics – susceptibility to binge eating disorder can be greater if a family member has had an eating disorder which suggest that it could be hereditary.
  • Emotional and psychological issues – stress, anxiety, poor self-esteem and negative body image have all been linked with contributing to the onset of binge eating disorder.
  • Historical relationship with food – those who have dieted a lot in the past can end up suffering from this eating disorder. Also, people who have been obsessive with counting calories or fasting during the day can result in triggering the impulse to binge eat.

How can binge eating disorder be prevented?

There is no fool-proof way to prevent binge eating disorder, however, fostering a healthy relationship with food and a positive body image are both helpful in preventing the onset of this eating disorder. In addition, it is really important to recognise the signs of binge eating disorder as early as possible and to start treatment as soon as possible.

What is the treatment for binge eating disorder?

Making the decision to seek treatment for binge eating disorder is the first step in recovery. The main goal for successful binge eating treatment is to learn how to gain control of your eating and to adopt a healthier attitude toward food, body image and your emotions.

Treatments for this disorder range from self-help programmes to individual therapy sessions and sometimes incorporates prescribed medications. As well as addressing the underlying psychological factors of this disorder, treatment also addresses losing weight in a healthy and structured manner. Such methods include meal plans, food diaries and regular exercise.

The most important fact about treating binge eating disorder is that most people do gradually improve and get better, providing they receive the help and support they need. 

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