Binge Eating Disorder (BED) can quickly become a severe mental and physical health concern,yet regardless of the level of severity it is treatable. BED is characterized by repeated episodes of eating large quantities of food while feeling unable to control the behaviour. This is a state of mind clients often refer to as being “zonked out” or feeling “possessed.” BED is the most common type of eating disorder affecting people worldwide, and with a reported occurrence of 1.6 % to 3.5% occurance rate in the United States. These figures are widely felt to be underestimated as, unfortunately all forms of eating disorders including BED remains highly under reported.
What are Binge Eating Disorders ?
The term ‘binge eating’ is commonly used in day-to-day life. Most of us have over eaten from time to time, some of us are willing to admit that we regularly ‘eat more than we should.’ However, eating large amounts of food does not classify someone as having BED. People with clinically diagnosable BED, experience a set of symptoms as defined by the new DSM-5, that occur at least once a week for three months or more.
The key diagnostic features of BED according to the DSM-5 are:
• Recurrent episodes of binge eating that is defined as an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances accompanied by a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (These features are important because they distinguish BED from simple overeating).
• Binge eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:
- Eating much more rapidly than normal
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
- Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating
- Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating
- Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.
- The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for three months.
- Absence of regular compensatory behaviors (such as purging) and does not occur exclusively during the course Bulimia Nervosa or Anorexia Nervosa.
While there is no exact cause of BED, researchers believe that, like other eating disorders, BED is influenced by a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors.
There are ongoing clinical research studies examining the pattern and frequency of multi-generational eating disorders within families, suggesting that there may be a genetic link. Binge Eating Disorders may also be linked to abnormal chemical responses in the brain, such as those involving hormones that are responsible for regulating appetite. As well, certain medications that stimulate appetite can contribute to binge eating behaviours.
BED is often linked to other mental health disorders including depression, which affects about half of all people with BED. People with BED often binge eat as a way of coping with mental stress or unwanted emotions. As with overeating, a binge eating episode can be triggered by anxiety, sadness, anger and even boredom. This maladaptive coping response is experienced as a way of “numbing out” and temporarily escaping unwanted emotions.
Binge eating behaviours can start as a learned behaviour. For instance, some with BED grew up in environments where mindlessly eating large quantities of food, well beyond what is physically comfortable, was and still is normal. In some instances these environments frequently encourage the use of food as a way of soothing physical pain, suppressing unwanted emotions, or as reward. Environmentally enforced lessons that portray food as the go-to coping mechanism is often a,often; though not always, a factor to be understood and addressed in the cause of BED.
The most first step in the treatment of BED is to accept help from professionals who are specially trained to work with people struggling with eating disorders. These professional will likely include mental health professions such as Psychologists, Psychiatrists or a Psychotherapist. A treatment team approach is likely to include physical health professionals such as a specially trained Registered Dietitian along with a medical doctor and possibly an Occupational Therapist. These health professionals will work with you to identify the underlying cause(s) of the Binge Eating Disorder and the most effective course of treatment for you.
As as example, one of the many forms of mental health therapy that has proven to be highly effective as an adjunct to the full treatment of Binge Eating Disorders is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT has a proven track record in anxiety management which is often present with all forms of eating disorders. CBT aims to help individuals identify and understand their thoughts and thought pattern responses, particularly those that negatively influence their behaviour. Once these patterns are identified, individuals are taught how to retrain their mind to create new more desirable behaviour patterns.
Other forms of treatment include; a) correcting nutritional deficiencies so that the body and mind becomes well fed are able to support each other optimally; b) making adjustments to eating behaviours which ultimately set in motion, reasonable hunger and fullness cues; c) correcting physical health injuries and d) medication, if needed.
Eating disorder Support Group, Treatment Groups or a personalized one-to-one treatment approach all can play an important role in recovery from Binge Eating Disorders.