Binge Eating Disorder Week is here! We (and our partners Binge Behavior, Binge Eating Disorder Association and Kari Adams of Killer Confidence with the Kari Adams Show) are so excited to be sharing news and educating you on this misunderstood eating disorder.
We’re all familiar with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. You may not know this, but there is actually a more common eating disorder called Binge Eating Disorder (BED). This disorder is not as publicized or understood as the more “popular” disorders, but it is still deadly.
BED was first explained in 1959 by Albert Stunkard, a psychiatrist and researcher, as Night Eating Syndrome (NES). The term Binge Eating Disorder was created to define similar binge eating behavior without the nocturnal aspect.
BED affects 3.5% of women and 2.0% of men in the U.S. This translates to 4.2 million women and 2.3 million men in the U.S with BED (combined, this is 2.8 % of American adults). Close to 43% of these individuals will obtain treatment. However, 5.2% of BED sufferers will die from health complications. This month, BED will finally find a home in the American Psychiatric Association’s compilation of mental disorders – the DSM-5. We are SO glad this disorder is finally getting the recognition from the community that it deserves, permitting us to spread awareness and allow more people to get help.
Diagnosing BED – Overeating or bingeing?
Almost everyone overeats on occasion, such as having seconds or thirds of a holiday meal. But for some people, overeating crosses the line to binge-eating disorder and it becomes a regular occurrence, usually done in secret. That is the difference between overeating and bingeing. Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by compulsive overeating in which people consume huge amounts of food while feeling out of control and powerless to stop. This usually begins in late adolescence or early adulthood, often after a major diet. A binge eating episode typically lasts around two hours, but some people binge on and off all day long. Binge eaters often eat even when they’re not hungry and continue eating long after they’re full. They may also gorge themselves as fast as they can while barely registering what they’re eating or tasting.
The key features of BED are:
- Frequent episodes of uncontrollable binge eating.
- Feeling extremely distressed or upset during or after bingeing.
- Unlike bulimia, there are no regular attempts to “make up” for the binges through vomiting, fasting, or over-exercising.
People with Binge Eating Disorder struggle with feelings of guilt, disgust, and depression. They worry about what the compulsive eating will do to their bodies and beat themselves up for their lack of self-control. They desperately want to stop binge eating, but feel like they can’t.
The binge eating cycle
Binge eating may be comforting for a brief moment, but then reality sets back in, along with regret and self-loathing. Binge eating often leads to weight gain and obesity, which only reinforces compulsive eating. The worse a binge eater feels about themself and their appearance, the more they use food to cope. It becomes a vicious cycle: eating to feel better, feeling even worse, and then turning back to food for relief.
Here is an example case of what the binge eating cycle can look like:
In 8th grade, Steve began to put on weight. His classmates taunted him for being chubby, so he turned to food for comfort, and put on more and more weight. Now, at age 32, Steve hates the way he looks and is on yet another diet. After a bad day at work, though, or if he’s feeling lonely, or sad, or bored, Steve finds it impossible to resist the fast food drive-ins on the way home. He orders cheeseburgers, fries, chocolate shakes, onion rings, and buckets of fried chicken. Then he hits the grocery store for donuts, cookies, and chips. Once home alone, he eats, and doesn’t stop until the food is gone and he’s so stuffed that he feels sick. But even when he’s eaten all the food, the bad feelings still remain. He berates himself for being such a disgusting pig and goes to bed worrying about the pain in his knees and his dangerously high cholesterol.
Physical and mental complications that may be caused by, or linked with, Binge Eating Disorder include depression, suicidal thoughts, insomnia, obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, gallbladder disease and other digestive problems, heart disease, some types of cancer, joint pain, muscle pain, headache and menstrual problems.
- Family history and biological factors. You’re much more likely to have an eating disorder if your parents or siblings have (or had) an eating disorder. Some people with BED may have inherited genes that make them more susceptible to developing the disorder, or their brain chemicals may have changed.
- Psychological issues. Most people who have BED are overweight, acutely aware of their appearance, and feel bad about it. When you have BED, you may act impulsively and feel you can’t control your behavior. You may have a history of depression or substance abuse. And you may have trouble coping with stress, worry, anger, sadness and boredom.
- Dieting. Many people with binge-eating disorder have a history of dieting – some have dieted to excess dating back to childhood. Dieting may trigger an urge to binge eat, especially if you have low self-esteem and symptoms of depression.
- Societal and cultural pressure. Traumatic situations, such as a history of sexual abuse, can increase the risk of binge eating. Social pressures to be thin, which are typically influenced through media, can trigger emotional eating. Persons subject to critical comments about their bodies or weight may be especially vulnerable to BED.
Help for BED sufferers
Binge Eating Disorder usually stems from hidden emotional issues. Professional support and treatment from health professionals specializing in the treatment of binge eating disorders, including psychiatrists, nutritionists, and therapists, can be the most effective way to address binge eating disorder. Such a treatment program would address the underlying issues associated with destructive eating habits, focusing on the central cause of the problem. It is necessary to concentrate on healing from the emotional triggers that may be causing binge eating, having proper guidance in establishing healthier coping mechanisms to deal with stress, depression, anxiety, etc.
Now that BED will be given its own diagnosis in the new DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistics Manual), this disease of BED is now more likely to be treated with the care and respect that Binge Eating Disorder sufferers deserve.
If you are interested in following along with BED Week, you can join the event on facebook or follow it on twitter by using the hashtags #BEDWEEK, #DSM5, #BEDAWARENESS, #EATINGDISORDER and #ED. We will also be taking questions (option to remain anonymous) at the email address BEDWEEKQUESTIONS@gmail.com for our live tweetchat on May 29th at 12-1:00pm (EST)!