Binge Eating Disorder
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is characterized by periods of excessive caloric consumption, but not followed by purging as in Bulimia. Binge Eating Disorder is often not diagnosed and may be perceived as just a lack of willpower and habit of over-indulgence. In fact, Binge Eating Disorder is a very real and very serious psychological disease which can be treated if proper measures are taken. A study published in Drugs and Therapy Perspectives reported that about 30% of women in the United States who seek treatment for weight loss actually suffer from Binge Eating Disorder. Other studies report that up to two million adults in the United States may have problems with binge eating. Those suffering from Binge Eating Disorder will eat massive amounts of food, often secretively and without actual enjoyment of the food. It is quite possible that Binge Eating Disorder is the most prevalent and most under-diagnosed eating disorder. The majority of people who suffer with Binge Eating Disorder are overweight or obese, however this is not always the case. Whites and African Americans are affected by roughly the same percentage, although women are slightly more susceptible than men. Binge Eating Disorder is a serious risk, as the resultant excess weight will lead to the same medical problems and health risks of obesity. These include diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia to name a few.
It is not known what triggers Binge Eating Disorder, however, depression, anxiety, and an inability to cope effectively with negative emotions are probable risk factors. So how does one decide if they have Binge Eating Disorder or just an occasional tendency to overeat? Physicians generally agree that those with Binge Eating Disorder have the following characteristics:
- Often eat what most people would consider to be a huge amount of food.
- Feel that their eating is out of control.
- Frequently eat until they are uncomfortable.
- Eat much more rapidly than normal.
- Eat whether they are hungry or not.
- Eat alone because they are embarrassed by the large amounts of food they are consuming.
- Feelings of depression, anger, and self-loathing after a binge.
Binge Eating Disorder can be treated. Overweight or obese individuals who suffer from Binge Eating Disorder should receive psychological treatment for their Binge Eating Disorder before attempting weight loss, as quite often weight loss efforts will be short-lived until the underlying psychological issues are addressed. Even those with Binge Eating Disorder that are not overweight need to treat the underlying problems, as episodes of binging can leave the person feeling depressed, angry, and helpless. Cognitive and behavioral therapies can be used to teach people to track their eating habits and develop healthy eating habits. It can also provide methods of dealing with difficult situations which may trigger a binging episode. According to Dr. James I. Hudson, Director of the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory at McLean Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, “Binge eating is a true eating disorder. It is a major public health problem. There is a strong genetic component to Binge Eating Disorder and, because of this, we might be able to treat or prevent Binge Eating Disorder and thereby prevent many cases of obesity”. It is a strongly held belief among health professionals specializing in eating disorders that the prevalence of eating disorders is much higher than we realize. Government funding for research and treatment of eating disorders, including Binge Eating Disorder, would be beneficial in discovering which treatments are most effective. Additionally, understanding and treating Binge Eating Disorder may have a huge impact on the obesity epidemic currently affecting the United States.
Sources: MedicineNet.com, Something-fishy.org