What is binge eating disorder?
In today’s fast-paced world eating disorders have become quite common. With body image issues on the rise and the constant reminders of ‘the perfect body’ on social media, serious mental health issues are often paving the way to these disorders.
A serious one is binge eating disorder (BED), which may make a person eat a lot of food in a short amount of time, even if they aren’t feeling hungry. It affects around 2% of the people in this world and may usually be a response to emotional stress or psychological trauma.
Usually, binge eating disorder makes people have food even when they’re not hungry and they may experience a sense of relief during eating, followed by a feeling of shame and guilt afterwards.
What causes this?
It’s not clearly known exactly what causes binge eating disorder, but there are several things that can add to the risk of developing it:
- Age - Although age is not a bar when it comes to binge eating disorder, it mostly affects people in their late teens or early twenties.
- Sex - According to reports, this eating disorder affects more women than men.
- Genetics and family history - It has been found that people with BED have more sensitivity to dopamine, which is the chemical responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. Also, if your parents or siblings have been affected by this, you are more likely to develop BED.
- Psychological troubles - People suffering from anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem or body image issues and stress are more like to develop binge eating disorders.
A history of dieting - It is seen that people who have a history of following strict diets are more likely to develop BED.
How do you know that you have a binge eating disorder?
Usually, the way to tell that a person is suffering from BED is by looking at their eating habits. One doesn’t have to be overweight to have BED. It can happen to people of any body mass index (BMI). The signs of BED you need to watch out for include:
- No control over what or how much you eat during a session.
- Eating large amounts of food at a time in order to satiate your hunger.
- Feeling uncomfortable when eating in the presence of others because of a feeling of embarrassment over how much you’re eating or the way you eat.
- Feelings of shame, guilt or disgust about what or how much you eat.
- Extreme body shape and size concern.
- Developing neurotic food habits like not letting foods touch each other, only consuming a certain kind of food or chewing excessively.
- Frequent bouts of dieting.
- Eating till you can barely move.
What are the health risks and complications?
BED comes with its own set of health risks and complications like:
- Poor life quality.
- Other health complications related to obesity like diabetes, joint problems, heart diseases, etc.
- Isolating oneself from social situations.
- Adversely affected work, personal or social lives.
- Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health issues may arise in people suffering from BED.
- Substance use disorders and unhealthy addictions.
How is it diagnosed?
There are mental health professionals who specialize in eating disorders, and it usually requires a visit to a mental health expert’s office for a formal diagnosis. In order for a proper diagnosis, a patient must have had at least one binge eating episode in a week for a minimum of three months.
Another important way to identify an eating disorder as BED is that, unlike bulimia, a person with BED does not throw up or over-exercise in an attempt to throw out the extra weight from the body.
How do you deal with it?
The path to recovery from a binge eating disorder is paved by the severity of the disorder and the affected person’s individual goals. You may try the following options available to deal with this issue:
- Try different therapy options - There are several different therapy options available for BED which range from interpersonal psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, weight loss therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, etc. that may be assigned to you. You can speak to your medical guide to figure out if any of these is a suitable option for your treatment plan.
- Make a support system - You can build a support system around you with your therapist, friends and family to help you in recovering from your condition and being there when you face triggers.
- Keep only healthy snacks around - When you get hungry or feel like eating, reach for healthy snacks in place of unhealthy food to avoid excessive weight gain.
- Be mindful while eating - If you eat with fewer distractions and are mindful when you eat, you are less likely to overeat.
- Get enough exercise - Exercising has a lot of benefits like helping you with weight loss, improving anxiety and body image issues and boosting your overall mood.
- Get adequate rest - Unless you get enough sleep at night, you run the risk of eating more calories than necessary. It is always advisable to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep at night to avoid overeating.
- Journal your eating habits and mood - When you start journaling your eating habits and your mood during those times, a pattern may emerge that can help you identify triggers and help you with your BED.
- Medication - Sometimes, your doctor may prescribe you certain medications in place of the various available therapies in order to treat your BED. It’s best to speak to a healthcare specialist in order to assess if you need medication and the kind you should be taking.