Binge Eating Disorder is a condition that is only recently gaining attention and awareness. Formally recognized as a medical condition in 2013, it is the most common eating disorder among U.S. adults, affecting an estimated 2.8 million Americans. It affects both women and men, although more women are afflicted. While the disorder relates to overeating, it can occur in people of normal weight.
What is binge eating disorder (B.E.D)?
Most of us overeat from time to time, whether during the holidays or at a celebration, but this is typically a rare occurrence. We may experience some indigestion, but otherwise are none the worse for wear. People suffering from binge eating disorder regularly eat more food than most people would in a similar time period under similar circumstances. Binge eaters feel that their eating is out of control during a binge; they either cannot keep from eating, or once they start eating, they cannot stop. Binge eaters also:
- Eat extremely fast
- Eat beyond feeling full
- Eat large amounts of food even when not hungry
- Eat alone to hide how much they are eating
- Feel terrible after they binge, and are upset by the fact that they have binges
Those with the disorder typically binge on at least a weekly basis and have been doing so for at least three months. Those with B.E.D do not counteract their excessive eating by purging, vomiting or overexercising as do people suffering from anorexia or bulimia. Only a healthcare professional can diagnose binge eating disorder.
What causes binge eating disorder?
The exact causes are unknown, but certain theories indicate that those with B.E.D. may have differences in their brain chemistry. These anomalies interfere with their ability to regulate food intake, and may increase their desire for a particular food. Some evidence suggests that B.E.D. may run in families, and genetic influences may be at work. Stress can also trigger B.E.D., as well as undergoing a trauma, such as a terrible accident or natural disaster.
What are the dangers of binge eating disorder?
Beyond the potential harm to one’s health, B.E.D. can also lead to depression, anxiety, low self-worth, and other mental health issues. B.E.D also makes it difficult for people to function in social roles and can impact families, personal relationships, and work.
Can binge eating disorder be treated?
Yes. The first step is to get a proper diagnosis and begin working with your health care provider and a mental health care provider. B.E.D can be treated in several ways, and often a combination of therapies is used.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy involves working with a mental health professional to learn how to regulate eating habits. It will help teach self-monitoring, goal setting, and work on reducing negative self-perception.
- Interpersonal Therapy may help when the binge eating is motivated by an underlying social problem.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy may assist those who are bingeing to cope with a traumatic experience.
- Medication has also proven successful. The U.S. Federal Drug Administration has just approved Vyvanese, a stimulant used in the treatment of ADHD, for treatment of those with B.E.D.
- Other medications used in treatment include antidepressants, which work on the depression/anxiety aspects of the disorder, and also can influence the chemical imbalance in the brain.
At some point, those with B.E.D may also work with a nutritionist to help develop healthy eating guidelines, and if overweight, a program for healthy weight loss. However, it is advised that the binge aspects and mental health aspects of the disorder be brought under control prior to embarking on any diet plan.
Binge eating disorder can affect people from all walks of life and income levels. It is not something to be ashamed of; it is a medical condition that can be treated. If you feel you suffer from B.E.D, talk to your healthcare provider. Help is available.
About Dr. David Schopick:
Dr. David Schopick is a psychiatrist in private practice in Portsmouth, NH. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in adult, adolescent and child psychiatry and has been serving patients in the Greater Seacoast area and beyond for more than 22 years.
For more information, call (603) 431-5411 or visit www.schopickpsychiatry.com