What is a Binge Eating Disorder?
A Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is an eating disorder which involves repeatedly consuming large quantities of food in a single sitting.
Unlike other eating disorders, a Binge Eating Disorder isn’t accompanied with subsequent “purges”.
What Is A Binge Eating Disorder?
Today, doctors use five different criteria to characterize a binge eating disorder, including:
1) The patient is experiencing recurrent episodes of binge eating, during which the patient eats an excessive amount of food in a short period of time – like within a 2 hour period. During this period, the patient experiences a lack of control over his or her actions.
2) Each binge eating episode is accompanied by three or more of the following characteristics: the patient eats more rapidly than normal; eats until uncomfortably full; eats a large amount of food even when not feeling physically hungry; eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating; feeling disgusted with oneself after eating.
3) The patient experiences “marked distress” before, during, or after binge eating.
4) Binge eating episodes take place at least once a week (on average) for three months
5) The binge eating is not associated with bulimia or anorexia behavior. In other words, the patient doesn’t binge then purge, or binge then exercise excessively.
Patients must meet all 5 of these criteria to be classified as having a binge eating disorder. These criteria are outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, known colloquially as DSM-5.
Most of us have had times where we feel we ate too much: you might have eaten excessive amounts of turkey at Christmas dinner this year, for example, and found it difficult to control your eating habits when you see the pumpkin pie arrive at the table. That’s not a binge eating disorder.
Typically, doctors rate BED on a scale from mild to extreme: cases are rated mild if they happen 1-3 times per week, moderate if they occur 4-7 times per week, severe if they occur 8-13 times per week, and extreme if they happen 14+ times per week.
What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating disorder is more common in women than in men. In the United States, it’s estimated that about 3.5% of women (5.6 million) and 2% of men (3.1 million) have BED.
Those who are obese are more likely to develop a binge eating disorder, although it’s not uncommon in people of a normal weight: approximately 1/3 of BED sufferers in the United States are not considered obese.
The exact causes of BED vary from individual to individual. In many cases, researchers find that the condition is linked to depression.
There are also some indications that the condition is genetic – families that are more prone to addiction-related problems like alcoholism, for example, are also seen more likely to develop BED.
There could also be a link between past traumas and binge eating disorder: those who have experienced emotional or physical abuse in the past are more likely to have BED.
How to Treat Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder, like many addiction problems, isn’t exclusively about willpower. It’s a serious psychological problem which often requires the help of a certified psychiatrist or psychologist.
Many psychologists now use cognitive behavior therapy to treat addiction problems. This therapy is designed to identify the root causes of your eating disorder and then alleviate those problems at the source. It’s a more holistic approach to curing addiction than many other treatments.
In other cases, people find their binge eating disorder disappears when they alleviate their depression or anxiety. Patients might take an antidepressant or even anti-seizure medication like Topamax to control binge eating episodes.
When to Visit a Doctor
If you or someone you love is suffering from a binge eating disorder, then you may need to seek professional help. Once again, binge eating disorders are different from bulimia and anorexia: those who suffer from BED don’t make themselves throw up after eating or make themselves excessively exercise.
A psychologist or medical professional can explore the root of your binge eating disorder. They can put you on the path to a brighter, happier future.