What is Binge Eating Disorder and How is it Treated?
Do you know what the most common eating disorder in the United States is today? Did you guess that it was anorexia or bulimia? Although there is rightly a lot of attention given to the serious concerns of anorexia and bulimia, it might surprise you to find out that Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is the most prevalent eating disorder out of all of them.
The updated version of the DSM-V recognizes eight different diagnoses for eating disorders:
- Rumination disorder (RD)
- Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)
- Anorexia nervosa (AN)
- Bulimia nervosa (BN)
- Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
- Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED)
- Unspecified feeding or eating disorder (UFED)
Binge Eating Disorder affects nearly three million people in the United States alone. And the saddest part of that statistic is that many of those individuals do not receive treatment, even though Binge Eating Disorder can be a severe and even life-threatening condition.
Because BED is often linked to being overweight or obese, it may go overlooked as a clinical disorder due to the stigma attached to overeating. Overeating can be seen as a character flaw or a self-discipline issue, but in Binge Eating Disorder it has progressed beyond the range of something most individuals can change or control on their own.
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Here is the official definition of BED from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA, emphasis added):
“Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating.”
So, let’s break this definition down a little.
BED is a severe condition. It’s not a minor problem. It’s profoundly serious, and it needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. There are many health risks, both physical and mental, associated with BED.
BED is life-threatening. It is not just an overeating problem. It is a mental health condition that can have drastic impacts on your well-being and as covered already, on your health.
BED is treatable! You don’t have to suffer from Binge Eating Disorder. There are many treatment options available to you. Recovery can be a long, arduous process, but it’s worth it, and there is hope for change.
The characteristic behaviors of Binge Eating Disorder are recurrent, feel out of control, and are associated with emotions of shame and guilt. The binges are almost always done in secret and self-loathing follows the binge.
What makes BED different from bulimia is the absence of attempting to compensate for the binge. Bulimia carries health risks associated with purging behaviors, and the distinction is important for mental professionals to make so they can provide the best care for your recovery.
Let’s say you’re reading this definition, and you feel like you recognize some of these behaviors in you or a loved one. How can you get more specific on whether these behaviors are a disorder or just disordered eating that isn’t diagnosable?
Healthline offers these five questions to ask yourself if you’re wondering if your overeating episodes may point to a disorder:
- Do you consume a large amount of food in a brief period while experiencing a loss of control over your eating more than once a week?
- Do you feel like you do not have control over your eating?
- Do you feel shame, guilt, or regret after overeating?
- Do you often eat when you’re not hungry?
- Do you often eat alone because you’re embarrassed about how much you eat?
Only a professional can diagnose Binge Eating Disorder, so if you suspect you or a loved one might suffer from BED, please seek professional help immediately.
Facts About Binge Eating Disorder
Binge Eating Disorder has only recently (2013) been recognized as a distinct eating disorder. Prior to the DSM-V revision, it was categorized as a subtype of EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).
Why is this important? Part of the importance of knowing this diagnosis is understanding the statistics surrounding BED:
- The most common time for BED to begin in women is in their late teens or early twenties.
- In men, BED most commonly begins in midlife.
- Binge Eating Disorder occurs over three times as often as anorexia and bulimia combined.
The prevalence of Binge Eating Disorder may even be higher than these statistics suggest because it often goes hidden and undiagnosed. There is a stigma associated with the disorder that can make it difficult for someone to come forward if they suspect they may have it, so it’s important to seek treatment.
Signs of Binge Eating
According to Healthline and NEDA, these are some of the symptoms to keep an eye out for if you think you or a loved one may have Binge Eating Disorder:
- Substantial amounts of food disappearing
- Discomfort with eating around other people
- Cutting out entire food groups/changing practices surrounding food
- Hoarding/stealing food
- Preoccupation with body weight, size, shape, appearance, dieting, etc.
- Secret recurring episodes of binge eating and a feeling of loss of control
- Random/disordered meal and snack patterns
- Rituals surrounding food
- Stomach problems
- Difficulty concentrating
- Weight fluctuations
- Binging at least once a week for at least three months
- As opposed to bulimia, binges are not directly compensated for
Not all disordered eating constitutes a diagnosable disorder, but whether you have all the symptoms of BED, you can still benefit from mental health treatment surrounding your relationship with food. One of the traps of disordered eating is feeling like there’s no escape – we all must eat to live, so it can feel next to impossible to compartmentalize your struggles, much less overcome them.
But there is hope! Many people have successfully recovered from Binge Eating Disorder and disordered eating. Christian counseling for Binge Eating Disorder can address your concerns in a compassionate, judgment-free environment. There is no shame in your struggle. We are here to walk with you every step of the way as you heal and recover from binge eating.
What is the most common and recommended treatment plan for someone diagnosed with BED?
Psychotherapy will always be recommended for Binge Eating Disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common approaches used to address the thinking processes associated with BED. In addition, your counselor can work with a treatment team, including a nutritionist or dietitian and a medical doctor. Residential treatment may be indicated. Group therapy is another option that can be helpful for some clients.
Co-occurring Disorders and Related Concerns
Is it possible to confuse some of the symptoms of an eating disorder with another mental health condition, or for symptoms of multiple mental health conditions to overlap? The answer is “yes.” Several disorders often occur in patients with Binge Eating Disorder, including anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), Substance Use Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).In the field of eating disorder treatment, professionals are often asked what causes a given eating disorder, or what the risk factors are for developing one. The risk factors for developing Binge Eating Disorder specifically can be difficult to identify, but we do know some of the most common risk factors for developing an eating disorder, including:
- Having a close relative with an eating disorder
- Having a close relative with a mental health condition
- History of dieting
- Type 1 diabetes
- Anxiety disorder
- Weight stigma
If you recognize some of these risk factors, this can help validate your struggle. It’s difficult to overcome an eating disorder, but by no means impossible. The more contributing factors you have, the harder it can be to overcome BED, but it can be done!
Although BED is not the deadliest eating disorder (anorexia is, and it’s also the deadliest mental health disorder), BED can still be dangerous. It’s also an under-treated disorder – only about 40% of individuals with BED receive treatment. Here are some of the potential complications or outcomes of Binge Eating Disorder:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Gallbladder diseases
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Sleep apnea
- Pregnancy complications
Here’s what Binge Eating Disorder is not:
- A lack of self-discipline.
- A character problem.
- Something you should be ashamed of.
- Something you can just fix if you have more self-control.
- Something you can easily recover from on your own.
You may need more than one health professional involved in your recovery. Recovery from Binge Eating Disorder usually involves medical professionals, mental health professionals, and a dietitian. You may also find your own recovery community to support you in your journey. Family counseling could help your support system come alongside you during your recovery.
To get started with your risk-free initial appointment, contact our office today to schedule your first session with me or another Christian counselor for eating disorders.
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