We can all agree that food is one of the necessities we need for living. We plan what to eat every day, from breakfast to dinner and even midnight snacks. It can make us happy, especially if our cravings are satisfied.
Changes in our appetite are entirely normal, especially if we are unwell or following a specific diet. For example, we eat like a cow after a long tiring day at work or school to compensate for the energy we lost during the day. In contrast, we lose our appetite if we're sick or our metabolism changes.
However, some eating habits are taken too far, leading to eating disorders. One of the most common types is binge eating disorder (BED). By definition, it is characterized by eating a larger amount of food than most people would eat in a similar period. If you have BED, you feel the need to overeat even if you're not hungry in the first place.
People with BED are often ashamed of their eating problems and hide their binge eating behaviors. According to statistics, about 3% of the population in the U.S. is suffering from binge eating disorders. You might ask yourself, “do I have a binge eating disorder?” The truth is, it can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or race.
Signs and Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
People think eating disorders are mainly associated with significant weight gain or loss, but this is not usually the case. It also involves how we feel about ourselves, how we view food, and how we feel after binge eating episodes. Psychological and physiological symptoms of binge eating disorder include:
- Eating an excessive amount of food than most people would eat in similar situations.
- Lacking control over how often or how much you eat.
- Eating in a discrete period of time, such as every 2 hours, even when not physically hungry.
- Eating much more rapidly than usual until feeling uncomfortably full.
- Eating alone to avoid humiliating yourself when others see how much you’re eating.
- Feeling extremely disgusted with yourself, depressed, or guilty afterward.
- Binge eating occurs at least once a week for a period of three months.
- Sneaking large amounts of food into your room and finishing it in secret.
- Hiding evidence of excessive food consumption.
- Having secretive behaviors, such as secret runs to the grocery store to buy food.
- The binge-eating episodes negatively affect everyday functioning.
Remember that we all have our overeating moments at times, where we would eat more than we usually do, especially during special occasions. However, it's important to note that this is not considered an eating disorder since BED involves recurrent and persistent binge eating episodes beyond mere overeating.
What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?
The leading cause of binge eating disorder remains unknown, but contributing factors lead to having unusual eating habits:
- Stress. Eating is one of our common coping mechanisms when we are stressed. We somehow need our “comfort food” to combat our life stressors. Stressful events like childhood bullying due to weight may also contribute to binge eating.
- Genetics. People with BED are most likely to have an increased sensitivity to dopamine, a chemical in our brain responsible for our feelings of pleasure related to our appetite and mood. Problems with your genes may also increase the odds of having BED, though other factors could trigger it.
- Extreme dieting. A person following an unstructured diet plan is most likely to skip meals rather than eat small portions. Due to fasting, the body will react with more hunger than usual, resulting in binge eating.
- Psychological factors. Depression and anxiety can also cause you to binge eat. Studies show that people who have depression are more likely to binge. As such, emotional eating can lead to binge eating over time.
Why Does Binge Eating Disorder Require Treatment?
If you have BED, you’re probably wondering how to treat it. If you’re developing unhealthy relationships with food, such as binge eating, seeking treatment will help prevent major health consequences. Medical experts say that if left untreated, binge eating disorder may cause serious health problems, such as:
- Obesity. Weight gain and obesity are the most common health risks associated with binge eating disorders. Two-thirds of people with BED are found to be obese.
- Sleep apnea. Breathing difficulties can also stem from binge eating disorders, especially during sleep. It is usually manifested through loud snoring while sleeping.
- High blood pressure. What we eat also plays a factor in our blood pressure. Since BED involves overeating in one sitting, it can immediately lead to high blood pressure, which can be dangerous. Sadly, nearly half of adults in the U.S. have hypertension, and it’s one of the leading causes of death.
- Diabetes. Binge eating can also make your blood sugar levels harder to control, which leads to the risk of having type 2 diabetes. This condition may progress over time and even damage other organs, such as your eyes, heart, and kidneys.
- High cholesterol. If you have BED, you are also at risk of acquiring high cholesterol levels, especially overeating fat. It can also lead to more severe health problems such as stroke.
In addition, people with binge eating disorders are likely to develop mental health problems such as mood and anxiety disorders:
- Depression. BED negatively affects one's mood, such as causing extreme sadness after the binge eating episodes. Similarly, people with depression are more likely to eat more because of their negative feelings. However, there is no evidence that binge eating disorder causes depression or vice versa.
- Social isolation. People with BED prefer to eat alone because of the shame that others will see the amount of food they eat in one sitting. Avoiding people while eating can also lead to avoiding social interaction in other activities.
While there are ways how to stop binge eating, seeking medication and therapy is highly advisable. The physical and mental health conditions mentioned above require medical treatment to prevent you from having more serious health concerns. Other experts in the medical and mental health field are willing to assist you in your eating disorder treatment. These professionals will provide the medication and coping skills you need to recover.
Binge Eating Disorder Treatment Options
Are you in search of how to treat binge eating disorders? There are various ways to get free from your eating disorder and achieve healthy eating habits. If you are on your journey to recovery, are currently in therapy, or thinking of having one, here are some helpful techniques in addressing eating disorders.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT is one of the most widely used techniques in treating various mental conditions, such as eating disorders. Its emphasis is working on one's cognition to produce a behavior change. For example, if you have a binge eating disorder, the licensed therapist will initially identify the irrational thoughts responsible for your binge eating behavior.
For example, thoughts like “I must eat what I want when I want it” will eventually lead to eating all the food you want at any time you want. Changing how you think about food will help you realize that you can control your eating habits and help you stop binge eating. Your therapist will also help you create a recovery meal plan to better address weight management and proper nourishment. Other experts like medical doctors and nutritionists can also help you towards recovery.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
The goals in DBT are known to be tailored to every individual with specific mental health concerns. Instead of resorting to binge eating, clients will learn how to tolerate pain, stress, or discomfort skillfully. The emphasis of this technique is on developing acceptance and change. Valuable skills are composed of different categories:
- Interpersonal effectiveness
- Distress tolerance
- Emotion regulation
For instance, a person who’d experienced a breakup would usually resort to stress eating, leading to binge eating episodes if not appropriately addressed. Learning other ways to cope with such upsetting situations can eliminate the client's need for binge eating. Through therapy, people with binge eating disorders can also learn to handle negative emotions like fear, sadness, and shame.
Your medical doctor or psychiatrist will prescribe medications necessary for your recovery as part of your treatment. Such prescriptions can help control your impulsive behavior to prevent your uncontrollable eating habits. You can also be given antidepressant medications to improve your mood regulation better. Since heightened emotions are associated with binge eating, antidepressants are used to boost your mood. Dietary supplements can also be part of the prescriptions.
There are several trusted online therapy platforms intended to help you feel better, and attending online therapy is an essential thing you should consider. Aside from being more affordable, online therapy also allows you to receive the help you need even at home. You don't have to suffer in a queueing line to book an appointment or travel the extra mile to find a therapist.
Such websites are user-friendly, and the steps are simple – take a mental health survey, get the licensed therapist you need, and start your therapy in no time. In addition, online therapy can address your eating disorder regardless of your location and availability.
The Bottom Line
How to treat binge eating disorder is a question with more than one answer. There are various ways to treat binge eating disorders, such as medication and online counseling. BED is treatable with proper medication and help from mental health professionals through online therapy. Like other mental health conditions, you can overcome your eating disorder, develop practical coping skills, and maintain healthy eating habits.
DoMental is one reliable site that offers professional help to address your specific needs. If you think you or someone you know is struggling with BED, now is the time to get the help you need.