By Crystal Vatza, MSCC, LPC, NCC, BC-TMH
Executive Director, Seeds of Hope at Lake Ariel
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is not over-indulging during the holiday season or consuming a pint of ice cream after your partner breaks up with you – it is a chronic, severe, and diagnosable condition that can be life-threatening. It requires psychiatric and medical monitoring as well as clinical and nutritional support to overcome.
Is there a chance you or a loved one have BED? Keep reading to find out information about symptoms, effects, and more.
What Is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge Eating Disorder is defined by recurrent episodes of eating large amounts of food, often in a short period of time, to the point of feeling discomfort. This over-eating behavior occurs at least once weekly for three months or longer. Commonly, this is coupled with a feeling of loss of control during the binge as well as feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment afterwards.
This condition is the most common eating disorder in the United States. According to a 2013 survey published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2% of respondents had BED during their lifetime, more than anorexia and bulimia combined.
Binge Eating Disorder vs. Bulimia
BED differs from another commonly known eating disorder, Bulimia Nervosa. Someone who struggles with Binge Eating Disorder does not engage in compensatory behaviors (purging, laxative/diuretic use, excessive exercise, etc.) as a countermeasure to the binge episode.
What Are the Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder?
You might notice these symptoms in someone struggling with BED:
- Excessive focus on weight, body size or shape, which might include touching areas of the body, looking in the mirror frequently or weight cycling (significant increases or decreases in weight)
- Participation in the newest fad diet
- Fear of eating around others, which may result in isolation from family and friends
- Hiding food
- Creating schedules to incorporate a binge eating episode into the routine
- Large amounts of food disappearing or excessive spending on food that perhaps was not originally budgeted for
- Gastrointestinal upset
This is not an all-inclusive list, but it can be a good starting point for reflection and identification for yourself or your loved one.
What Are Some of the Risk Factors?
BED manifests for various reasons from genetics to trauma. It affects women more than men, though no gender or non-gender is exempt from the illness.
It is, however, often found with other mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. And most commonly, it corresponds with low or poor body image.
What Are the Effects of Binge Eating Disorder?
Untreated Binge Eating Disorder can be devastating for an individual’s physical health, with effects such as:
- Obesity and weight gain
- Increased risk for high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other health conditions.
- Negative effect on sleep
BED impacts more than just the person who is struggling with the illness. It is difficult to watch someone you care about suffer from any condition, and BED is no different. An individual struggling with this disorder may also:
- Isolate themselves
- Spend unbudgeted money for large amounts of food
- Steal and eat others’ food without their permission.
For family and friends, this can trigger emotional tension, as well as financial or physical turmoil.
How Do We Treat Binge Eating Disorder?
There are multiple approaches to treating someone with BED. They include psychopharmacology (medication therapy), weight loss therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
At Seeds of Hope, we primarily use ACT, CBT, and DBT but also some psychopharmacology as appropriate. Interpersonal therapy and other types of therapy are also used as indicated for the individual who needs help.
We believe in guiding patients to reconnect with themselves and relearn who they are without the eating disorder. We help patients to accept and love themselves as they develop replacement coping skills while working through the root of what caused the eating disorder in the first place. This is a process that takes hard work, dedication, support, time, and professional help.
If you or a loved one are seeking additional information about this topic or are ready to take the first step to recovery and get Binge Eating Disorder treatment, Seeds of Hope can help. Call 610-644-6464 or leave us a message on our website.