Binge Eating Disorder - Signs, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Overview – What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating disorder or BED is commonly characterized by compulsive overeating and therefore, classified as a serious mental illness. It involves affected individuals frequently consuming abnormal amounts of food or binge-eating while feeling helpless to stop owing to a loss of self-control. This disorder – which is said to affect nearly 2 per cent of people worldwide – can instigate feelings of a strong sense of shame, guilt, disgust, and distress in the affected individuals. People often turn to binge eating as a coping mechanism to deal with emotional problems such as depression or anxiety as they feel it helps to temporarily relieve or get rid of these feelings of unhappiness. While Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are well-known eating disorders, currently awareness surrounding BED is very little. Taking into consideration that BED is more common than anorexia and bulimia combined, this statistic makes for a very surprise reading indeed.
Although BED can affect almost anyone at any age and any gender, it typically starts affecting individuals in their late teens to early twenties. If left unchecked or untreated, BED can go on to become a chronic problem that can transcend well into adulthood. It needs to be mentioned that occasional binge eating episodes, such as during festivals or night-outs, aren’t classified as a BED. For them to be classified as BED, episodes have to reoccur twice per week over a duration of six months on an average. Furthermore, more often than not, BED leads to the onset of obesity, which can further reinforce compulsive eating.
Causes of Binge Eating Disorder
Currently, the exact cause which results in BED is relatively unknown. That said, there are a bunch of biological, psychological and environmental/social-cultural factors which are responsible for influencing the development of this order which is listed as below:
Biological Factors: Hormonal irregularities and genetic mutations specific to food addiction or compulsive eating are said to have a possible connection to binge eating disorder. An individual with a history of weight fluctuations is also said to be at a higher risk. According to a study done by A Journal of Psychiatric Research, it has been revealed that there might be a link between low levels of serotonin and binge eating behaviour.
Psychological Factors: There is said to be a direct link between how the mind perceives the body and BED. Usually, BED can be triggered in individuals suffering from low self-esteem, poor body self-image, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, etc. Studies have reported that an inability to cope with the stress associated with these pre-disposing factors can contribute to BED.
Environmental (Social and Cultural) Factors: External influences or the onset of certain traumatic situations can increase the risk of an individual getting afflicted with BED. In that regard, individuals who have suffered sexual abuse, bullying or endured societal pressures to become thin as well as body shaming, negative comments about their weight – may especially be vulnerable to BED. Media influences such as living up to unrealistic ideals of beauty can also trigger BED in certain individuals.
Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
Unlike other disorders, symptoms related to BED are harder to pinpoint as individuals often tend to be secretive about their eating habits thus seek to hide symptoms. That said, here are the common symptoms which are usually associated with BED –
- Eating rapidly or continually until uncomfortably full
- Eating much quicker than the usual speed
- Eating large amounts of food and drinking beverages without feeling hungry
- Rapid weight gain
- Large quantities of food missing in the fridge/cabinets
- Low self-esteem coupled with depression
- Negative body image
- Socially withdrawn – avoiding going out or meeting friends/family
- Unable to control the quantity of food consumed or understand when to stop eating
- Eating alone because of feelings of embarrassment and shame
- Eating normal quantities around people but binging when alone
- Feelings of guilt or disgust with oneself
- Never being satisfied irrespective of the amount of food consumed
The negative feelings associated with binge eating can often lead to further emotional challenges resulting in the affected individual being trapped in a vicious cycle of guilt. Therefore, seeking professional help and treatment at the right time is paramount in ensuring the binge eating doesn't spiral out of control.
Binge eating involves eating copious amounts of food in a short period of time which is not only unhealthy but can also have serious medical implications. Because our bodies are not designed to cope with eating large quantities in a short period of time, the stomach and the esophagus can stretch dangerously resulting in an array of gastric, intestinal, and digestive issues. Other complications that may arise include cardiovascular disease, type 2 Diabetes, insomnia or sleep apnea, muscle and/or joint pain, gallbladder disease, hypertension, depression and/or anxiety, etc.
Besides the physical dangers linked with binge eating, there are also social and emotional difficulties that the affected individual has to cope with. Which is why it is recommended to seek BED treatment as soon as possible. If you’ve been looking to gain freedom from your binge eating and want to get well, Fortis can help put an end to this vicious cycle once and for all.
The aim of treatment is to help in reducing the frequency of binge eating episodes and improve overall emotional well-being as well. Here are some of the types of treatments that have proven to be especially helpful in the treatment of BED.
We have specially-designed sessions with a professionally trained counsellor, psychologist or therapist to help patients experiencing BED understand the underlying reasons behind the desire to eat uncontrollably when under emotional distress. Our trained professionals are experienced to deal with a wide range of eating disorders and can help patients deal and overcome feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, anxiety, shame, depression as well as any other emotional issues. Ultimately our aim is to help you develop better self-control over your eating habits. Our dieticians also offer nutritional counselling which can help the patient in adopting healthier ways of eating.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Through CBT, we help patients better understand the thoughts and feelings that influence the patients' behaviours while helping them approach and resolve this conflict. We also help in teaching the patient's various skills needed to cope with stress and other emotional issues.
In addition to these methods, we administer selective medications including antidepressants or appetite suppressants depending on the person’s condition.
At Fortis, we seek to genuinely help individuals battling BED and other weight-related issues by teaching them to trust themselves and their bodies again, and by helping teach them to respect themselves, both inside and out. In addition, we go through great lengths to ensure that your privacy and confidentiality are maintained and respected at all times and rest assured, our experienced professionals will always be on hand to help you work through any difficult emotions you may be experiencing.