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What are the Symptoms and Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder affects more men and women than anorexia or bulimia. Like those with bulimia, people with binge eating disorder consume unusually large amounts of food on a regular basis. This compulsion to eat brings about intense feelings of embarrassment, guilt and shame, causing many to hide their behavior.

Also known as compulsive overeating, binge eating disorder is characterized by frequent episodes of uncontrollable eating, either in one sitting or throughout the day, even when uncomfortably full. Despite a strong desire to stop, they feel out of control and powerless.

Unlike bulimia, people with binge eating disorder do not engage in purging behaviors such as vomiting or over-exercising to rid their bodies of calories. This typically leads to weight gain or obesity and a number of related health consequences, such as diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer. Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are also common among binge eaters.

People with binge eating disorder use food to cope with difficult emotions, but quickly get caught in a destructive cycle where the more they eat the worse they feel. This, in turn, leads to another binge.

Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

The symptoms of binge eating disorder often begin in adolescence. They may be difficult to detect because people with binge eating disorder typically try to hide their behavior. Left untreated, compulsive overeating can continue into adulthood with severe emotional and physical health consequences. The symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Consuming large amounts of food or eating continuously throughout the day
  • Eating rapidly or even when full without feeling satisfied
  • Feeling unable to control your eating
  • Frequent dieting, often without losing weight
  • Feeling disgusted, ashamed or guilty about your eating habits
  • Hiding food or eating in secret
  • Eating to cope with stress or other difficult emotions

Causes of Binge Eating Disorder

As with other eating disorders, the cause of binge eating disorder is unknown. A number of factors likely play a role, including:

  • Genetics
  • Low Self-Esteem and Poor Body Image
  • Social Ideals of Thinness
  • Environmental Factors (such as unhealthy relationships or criticism about weight)
  • Abuse or Trauma
  • Impulse Control Issues
  • Lack of Healthy Coping Skills
  • History of Dieting
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Binge Eating Treatment

Binge eating disorder treatment focuses on reducing compulsive eating behaviors, building healthy coping skills and developing positive self-esteem. Depending on your needs, supervised weight loss may be part of binge eating treatment.

Some of the most common treatments for binge eating include:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Interpersonal Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Weight Loss Programs
  • Medication
  • Nutrition Therapy
  • Culinary Therapy

Specialized binge eating programs may treat both the eating disorder and obesity at the same time. These programs address the triggers for binge eating and teach healthier ways to cope. Meal planning, intensive therapy, and fitness training combine to produce gradual lifestyle changes and long-term weight loss.

If you or someone you know is wrestling with a binge eating disorder, call our free helpline today at 1-877-562-2565.

Information used with permission from CRC Health Group.