What is Binge-Eating Disorder/Compulsive Overeating (BED/COE)?Binge-eating disorder, also known as compulsive overeating is characterized by the frequent consumption of unusually large amounts of food. Individuals suffering from the disorder feel such strong compulsions that they are unable to resist the urges to binge eat. A binge is usually followed by a period of intense guilt and/or depression.
Signs, Symptoms and EffectsThere may be no obvious physical signs or symptoms in an individual suffering from binge-eating disorder. The person may be overweight, obese or of a healthy weight. Some of the emotional indicators include eating large amounts of food, eating even when full, eating rapidly during binge episodes, depression, anxiety, feeling that your behavior is out of control, hoarding food, hiding empty food containers, eating alone, and feeling disgusted about your eating.
Individuals with BED/COE may become ill due to lack of proper nutrition. Binging episodes usually include foods that are high in fat, sodium and sugar and lack healthier nutrients. People who are obese and also suffer from binge-eating disorder are at risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, gallbladder disease, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, and certain types of cancer.
What causes binge-eating disorder and who is affected by it?It is not known what specifically causes BED but it’s believed that a variety of factors are at play. Both genes and brain chemicals may play a role in the development of the disorder, along with emotional characteristics such as low self-worth and trouble controlling impulsive behavior, managing moods or expressing anger. Some people with binge-eating disorder have a history of being sexually abused.
It is not fully known how many people suffer from BED, but experts believe that it is the most common of all eating disorders. Estimates suggest that up to 4 percent of the U.S. population has binge-eating disorder, with females slightly more likely to develop the disorder than males. Both children and adults are susceptible to BED, but it is most common in people in their 40’s and 50’s.
Treatment and PreventionThere are many ways to treat binge-eating disorder but they all share a common goal to reduce binges, improve emotional well-being and to help the individual lose weight if necessary. Psychotherapy can help an individual learn how to exchange unhealthy habits for healthy ones, cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients learn how to cope with issues that may trigger a binge episode, interpersonal therapy focuses on an individuals relationships with other people and dialectical behavior therapy can help someone learn behavioral skills to help them tolerate stress and regulate their emotions. Medications can be used to treat underlying factors that cause BED such as depression or anxiety.
There is no sure way to prevent compulsive overeating but there are steps a person can take to help themselves or someone they know. It’s important to cultivate and reinforce a healthy body image, especially in children. Don’t joke or tease someone about their size, shape or appearance. If you notice a family member or friend showing signs of BED, you can talk to him or her about the issue and discuss healthier behavior or treatment options.