We’ve all eaten our feelings in response to stress, but if this behavior becomes consistent, it may be a sign of binge eating disorder.

Binge eating disorder (BED) is a recurring compulsion to overeat, often to the point of discomfort and beyond your caloric needs. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders (DSM-V)added BED in 2013. The criteria for diagnosis involve at least one episode of binging per week, with an absence of purging, excessive exercise, or fasting. The binges must include noticeably large amounts of food, typically consumed within the span of 2 hours, and the client must report feeling out of control of his or her behavior.

Risk Factors for Binge Eating Disorder

As the most common eating disorder in the United States, many people are at risk. Binge eating disorder is three times more common than anorexia nervosa and bulimia combined. Overall, BED does not discriminate between races, age groups, or income levels, but some groups are more at risk than others. For example, the disorder affects 3.5% of American women compared to 2% of men. Nonetheless, it remains the most common eating disorder experienced among men. Women will typically experience the disordered eating around the ages of 18-29. Men are more likely to develop BED between the ages of 45-59.

Short-Term Effects of Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder affects clients both psychologically and physically. Sufferers may feel shame, guilt, anxiety, and depression after a binge-eating episode. They may withdraw from social settings or refrain from eating in front of others, even as they find themselves preoccupied with thoughts of food. Short-term physical effects include fatigue, anxiety and incremental weight gain. 

Long-Term Effects of Binge Eating Disorder

Long-term side effects are usually synonymous with the those of obesity. People suffering from binge eating disorder may have a higher risk of developing Type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol and sleep apnea. They are also at greater risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Bing eaters may also experience muscle and joint pain, digestive issues, depression, and an increased risk of certain cancers. Some develop health issues related to social isolation.

Signs and Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

The shame experienced from binge eating disorder often results in secretive behavior, making it more difficult to notice the problem. However, behavioral and physical signs may indicate the disorder.

For example, you may notice large amounts of food have gone missing, or that your loved one is noticeably uncomfortable eating in front of others. You may also notice a tendency to toward certain foods, such as those high in salt or sugar, which are often associated with emotional eating. A binge eater may also demonstrate behavior consistent with having low self-confidence, such as showing picking apart their physical flaws or withdrawing from friends and social engagements. Weight fluctuations are perhaps the most obvious sign, along with possible complaints of gastrointestinal discomfort. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to seek treatment.  

Treatments for Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating is often associated with other co-occurring psychological conditions like depression or anxiety. The shame, low sense of self-worth, frustration with body image, and overwhelm from a lack of control can lend to the need to address more than just eating habits. Consequently, recovery and treatment of binge eating disorder will have a strong focus on psychotherapy, whether in a group setting or on an individual basis.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a cornerstone of our treatment at Sprout Health Group, can address triggers to the bingeing behavior and also expose underlying beliefs that serve as a driving force for their compulsion to eat. This form of therapy will also help the client form new patterns and have a sense of control again.

Focusing on relationships with interpersonal psychotherapy can also help to restore connections through family and friends, while reducing the triggers that often incite bingeing behavior. Sometimes, binge eating can also be seen as a method people use to find connection when it appears absent from their lives. Family therapy can therefore be a beneficial part of treatment.

A third form of therapy for treatment of binge eating disorder is dialectical behavior therapy. This approach focuses on developing the skills to deal with stress and negative emotions, which can also lead to a reduction in the desire to binge eat.

Lifelong Recovery from Binge Eating Disorder

After professional treatment for the disorder, an eating disorder survivor can reinforce recovery with ongoing therapy, structured eating, journaling, and maintaining an environment that reduces exposure to the foods commonly eaten during a binge episode. Supportive friends and family are also an important part of long-term recovery. A professional treatment program will help you discover which methods work best for your own long-term recovery.

If you or a loved one struggles with binge eating disorder, call us to take the first step toward recovery in a supportive environment led by experienced clinicians who understand that everyone experiences BED differently, and work to provide personalized treatment for every client.