Binge Eating Disorder

Cheeseburger and french fries on a white plate

Consumed By Food

Imagine eating large quantities of food at a time without the ability or control to stop yourself. It’s as if your brain is on autopilot and instructing you to keep eating despite not feeling hungry; you become shackled to food. Your self-esteem plummets and the pattern repeats itself.

Binge eating disorder is a severe eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food. People with BED eat very quickly and to the point of great discomfort. They also feel as if they have no control during their binge; all they can do in that moment is eat away.

The binge is followed by shame, guilt and emotional distress. Binge eating disorder is unlike anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, in that no compensatory purging or use of laxatives or diuretics are used to counter the binge. This disorder usually occurs in people who are emotionally distressed or fragile, but it is not clear why or how it occurs.

It is the most common eating disorder in the United States! People with BED will consume an amount of food within a discrete period of time that is much larger than what most people would eat under the same circumstances. For instance, a person with BED cannot stop eating during a binge, but an obese person without BED will stop after their regular portion.

People with BED:

  • Eat much more rapidly than normal
  • Eat until they feel uncomfortably full
  • Eat when not hungry
  • Eat alone because they feel embarrassed in front of others

The binge occurs at least once a week for three months. People with BED often experience distress regarding their binges; this can progress to a low self-esteem, insecurity and even depression. They may even develop a fear of eating in public or with others because of the uncertainty of when they may experience a binge.

Some other behavioral or physical signs of BED that can be observed include:

  • Withdrawal from friends and/or activities
  • Dieting
  • Hoarding food
  • Adopting food fads
  • Evidence of lots of empty wrappers and containers
  • Concern with body weight
  • Disruption in normal eating behaviors and patterns
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Constipation
  • Acid reflux

Most people with BED are clinically obese, but most people with obesity do not have BED! It can be diagnosed at any weight, but most tend to have a normal or higher-than-average weight. Treatment includes cognitive behavioral therapy, lisdexamfetamine (a stimulant), topiramate (an anticonvulsant) or antidepressants.

If you suspect anyone suffering from binge eating disorder, do not leave them to wither away in the dark. Be understanding of their experience and offer them support, guidance and help in a nonjudgmental way!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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