An Overview of Binge Eating Disorder

Understanding Binge Eating Disorder

Although it is actually more common than both bulimia and anorexia, most people have a misguided view of binge eating disorder (BED).  This ignorance is probably the chief reason that it took so long for BED to obtain a formal status among professionals. Until 2013, binge eating disorder was included in the generic ‘Not Otherwise Specified Eating Disorder’ category. Subsequently, this also meant that people who suffered from BED were not able to seek proper diagnosis or treatment for their condition. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. BED is now recognized as a distinct disorder, one with well-defined symptoms, diagnostic methods, and treatment protocols. However, the general public has not yet integrated this increased level of awareness. The purpose of this article is to bring readers up to date on the disease and help people who suffer from it understand the threat to their well-being it poses.

What Is Binge Eating Disorder?

Relatively unknown outside the treatment community, BED is a dangerous yet treatable eating disorder that professionals only recently recognized as a distinct condition. Prior to the publication of the DSM 5 in 2013, it was classified as a type of EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), which meant that some insurance companies would not cover treatment of it. Now that the DSM 5 has given it a specific diagnosis, people suffering from Binge Eating Disorder are more likely to seek and receive treatment. In the simplest of terms, Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by the following: Repeated episodes of quickly consuming unnecessarily large amounts of food Consistent feelings of having no control over how much food is consumed Experiencing deep feelings of guilt, shame, and despair during and after such an episode Not using harmful countermeasures– like purging– to compensate for the excessive food intake According to NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association), around 2.8 million Americans suffer from Binge Eating Disorder.

Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

There are three areas of BED symptoms: physical, emotional, and behavioral However, note that these symptoms can overlap with other eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, making it more difficult to diagnose Binge Eating Disorder. Here are some examples of the three varieties of symptoms that persons with BED tend to exhibit

Emotional symptoms

  • Feelings of low self-esteem and confidence, particularly in relation to weight and appearance
  • Consistent guilt or embarrassment at the amount of food being consumed
  • Feelings of disgust or depression after eating
  • Feelings of extreme discomfort at the thought of eating with other people

Behavioral symptoms

  • Hoarding food
  • Erratic behavior in relation to food (i.e., tries out one fad diet after the other, creates food rituals, has strange eating schedules, etc.)
  • Obsessively checks appearance and weight
  • Hides evidence of binge eating

Physical symptoms

• Noticeable weight fluctuations in a short period of time • Frequent gastrointestinal complaints (i.e., acid reflux, constipation, or loose bowel movements)

Three Things You Need to Know About Binge Eating Disorder

You now have a general idea of how Binge Eating Disorder tends to play out in an individual’s life. Now it’s time to dispel a few of the dangerous myths that are currently floating around regarding the condition. As we previously stated, there is a great deal of misinformation and ignorance floating around out there regarding BED. In this section, we’ll explore three important facts about this common eating disorder.

1. Choosing the perfect weight loss program is not an effective way to treat BED

Sadly, far too many treatment professionals operate under false assumptions about binge eating. This is why some eating disorder treatment centers include a weight-reduction component in their care plans. Not surprisingly, this usually creates a number of barriers for those who want evidence-based and effective treatment. The truth is that well-designed BED programs never focus on a client’s weight. Instead, they are adaptable to an individual client’s needs regardless of weight and address the condition’s underlying causes. Among other factors, this includes helping the client take a critical look at their views on the body and rethink their relationship with food.

2. Binge Eating IS a Big Deal

Sure, we all eat too much from time to time, but persons with BED take this bad habit to often devastating extremes. Those who suffer from BED find that this condition has a significant adverse effect on all aspects of their life. What’s worse, having BED can quickly become a downward spiral. Those who suffer from BED can feel guilty or hesitant about getting help, which can push them into further binge eating more as a way to cope with the negative emotions. Binge Eating Disorder can co-occur with other mental health disorders such as substance abuse disorder, anxiety, and depression. Often, these conditions might even reinforce each other and make it necessary to treat both at the same time.

3. Only a Small Group Of People Is Likely to Experience BED During Their Lifetime

As stated earlier, almost 3 million Americans will suffer from Binge Eating Disorder during their lifetime. In women, this condition generally manifests during early adulthood. For men, the condition is more likely to occur during their midlife period. Unfortunately, even trained professionals have difficulty diagnosing BED properly.  The result is that far too many people suffering from the disorder

Proper Treatment Is Key

If left untreated, people who suffer from Binge Eating Disorder are at risk of developing severe health conditions such as clinical obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and Type 2 diabetes. The good news is that treatment and recovery are possible. The most important step is a proper diagnosis from a licensed professional, such as a psychiatrist or a nutritionist. Even your primary care physician may help you diagnose this condition if they have experience in handling this type of disorder. If a healthcare professional diagnoses you with BED, treatment is imperative. The type of treatment will depend on the severity of your Binge Eating Disorder. Some people are able to complete their treatment on an outpatient basis, while others may need to check into a treatment facility for monitoring and support. If you do not know where to find resources, the National Eating Disorders Association website has a database you can use. There you can find licensed treatment centers as well as experienced professionals who specialize in binge eating disorder and related conditions.

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