According to the Oxford dictionary, a binge is a period of excessive indulgence in an activity. Binge eating refers to the consumption of food disorderly and with episodes of out-of-control consumption.
Oh no; the second piece of cake that finally came out perfectly in your weekend or a spoonful more of Mom’s warm broth on Friday afternoon, is that binge eating too? No, and never will be. Nor is it eating a little extra in a family get-together or at a dinner out with friends.
Binge eating signifies a deeper rooted problem with very clear signs. If all boxes are ticked, it may even be the symptoms of serious eating disorders.
So, What Are the Signs?
An episode of binge eating goes like this:
- Eating more than most people would in a discrete-time
- A sense of not being able to stop
Other symptoms of an episode are:
- Eating alone due to embarrassment as to how much one consumes.
- Consuming a large amount of food even at times of no hunger.
- Eating until uncomfortably full.
- Eating faster than normal.
- Feeling relief during a binge and extreme guilt and shame afterward.
Binge Eating Disorder is a severe disorder in which large amounts of food are consumed continuously even after reaching a state of discomfort due to overeating. This is followed by serious guilt and embarrassment with the intention made to stop and not repeat the act again.
But again, resistance becomes difficult and impulsive eating takes over. Thus, the cycle repeats. BED is one of the newest disorders to be recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Edition). This disorder is sometimes the cause of health issues linked to diet like diabetes and high cholesterol.
Binge eating episodes can be triggered by boredom, negative feelings of body image and stress amongst other reasons. An important characteristic is unlike bulimia, a binge eating patient does not try to undo the binge by means of over-exercising, deliberate throwing up or laxative consumption.
Emotionally stressful events like childhood body shaming, death of a loved one and abuse can lead to direct risk of diving into binge eating habits.
Binge eating disorder is more common in women than in men. This may be due to underlying biological factors.
Weight problems can be a cause and consequence of this disorder.
Binge eating history- this is usually the first symptom listed for patients. Most patients have a history of binge eating.
Body image-usually, patients with BED have body dissatisfaction and unorganized dieting which contributes to the factors of this disorder.
Psychological disorders like substance abuse, bipolar disorder, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for example, can result in binge eating.
Like other eating disorders, the real cause of BED is not fully known through the internal and external factors of genes, environment, society, and psychology play a vital role in contributing to it.
What does BED bring with it?
This disorder strongly impacts health, emotional, physical and behavioral aspects. BED poses an independent risk of obesity which in turn, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, and heart disease.
Other health risks brought about by BED are asthma, pregnancy complications, sleep problems, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and mental health problems. In some cases, challenges with social interaction may be the cause. Overall, binge eating poses a risk to the quality of one’s life.
So, What Can be Done?
Firstly, as you may have grasped by now, binge eating is not the equivalent of indulging in the food you love while out with friends once in away. To be diagnosed, the patient must experience at least one episode a week in the span of three months.
The severity of the episodes can go from mild to severe. Patients usually need external support to overcome BED and build a healthy relationship with food (Mandl, 2019). If this disorder is neglected, it can cause swift and drastic deterioration of health.
Treatment for BED is varied and effective if the correct one is chosen. The medical practitioner will take the severity, causes, and the individual into account during diagnosis, analyzing the area of treatment.
This will include studying the behaviors that cause binge eating, underlying personal problems and the regulations of emotions. Blood and urine tests may also follow to further check for health consequences.
Therapy is a well-known choice for treating BED. Choosing a therapy will depend on individual cases with the most common being cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal psychotherapy and dialectical behavior therapy.
Medications serve as a cheaper option. However, no medication is effective and long-term enough to replace therapy for BED treatment. In addition, these medications may have side effects. They include antidepressants, antiepileptic and hyperactive disorder drugs.
Treatment strategies aside, the patient needs to take care and responsibility and make a revision of his lifestyle to help his way to cure. These are a few helpful pointers to make a note:
- An exercise plan
- Enough sleep
- Healthier choice of food
A strong support circle of friends and family or joining online BED support groups
If you are a BED patient, get to work immediately and don’t lose hope. Maintaining a diary of your progress and reading the success stories of former BED patients may also inspire you in your journey to recovery.