Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating is out-of-control eating. A person with binge eating disorder exhibits a repetitive pattern of bingeing that often results in overweight or obesity * , "yo-yo dieting" and guilty or embarrassed feelings.
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Binge and purge
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Eating for Comfort
Rebecca's parents sometimes got into fights that literally scared her out of the house. She often ended up at her neighbor's house, where she was treated to hot chocolate, cookies, and other goodies. Eating in the comfort of her neighbor's home always soothed Rebecca and lessened the pain she felt when her parents fought. Before long, Rebecca didn't bother going to her neighbor's house; she'd find a private place at home and eat whatever sweets she could find. She tried not to do it too often because it made her gain weight, but sometimes she felt she just couldn't stop. She was ashamed of what she did, but it took her mind off her problems.
What Is Binge Eating Disorder?
People who binge on a regular basis have binge eating disorder. Bingeing means eating abnormally large quantities of food (sometimes thousands of calories) in one sitting. Binge eating is sometimes referred to as compulsive overeating because the person feels little control to resist or stop overeating. People who binge often eat when they are not hungry. Women and girls are more likely to have binge eating disorder, but it can affect boys as well. The number of people with this disorder is estimated at 1 to 2 percent of men and women. As many as 30 percent of all women who seek medical treatment to lose weight have binge eating disorder.
Binge eating disorder is similar to another eating disorder called bulimia (bu-LEE-me-a). A person with bulimia binges and then purges. Purging means using vomiting, laxatives, and enemas to rid the body of food. A person with binge eating disorder binges but does not purge.
* obesity (o-BEE-si-tee) is an excess of body fat. People are considered obese if they weigh more than 30 percent above what is healthy for their height.
What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?
The causes of binge eating disorder are hard to pinpoint, but a number of factors are thought to contribute to the problem. People who have binge eating disorder are usually overweight and/or are constantly dieting. Preoccupied with food, they are caught in a cycle of dieting excessively, becoming too hungry, and then overeating. People who have trouble dealing with stress or painful emotions may use binge eating as comfort. Those who have a family history of obesity may be more likely to binge eat. The cultural preoccupation with thinness and dieting also plays an important role in binge eating and in other eating disorders. People who binge are often torn between their feelings of comfort with food, their wish to be thin, and the confusing messages about food and about thinness in the media.
How Is Binge Eating Disorder Diagnosed
People with binge eating disorder often seek help from a health care professional because they want to lose weight or because of concern about health problems related to obesity. A careful evaluation that involves questions about family and personal history, physical health, eating and dieting habits, psychological concerns, and personality issues may bring binge eating disorder to light.
Like other eating disorders, overcoming binge eating may take a long time, lots of commitment, and hard work. Treatment usually involves a number of professionals, such as a physician, a nutritionist, and/or a therapist. Treatments include counseling, change in eating and dieting habits, support groups, nutritional counseling, individual or group psychotherapy, and in some cases, medication.
Can Binge Eating Disorder Be Prevented?
According to Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc. (ANRED), prevention involves becoming more aware of what triggers a binge and making choices that help to avoid a binge. They provide the following guidelines that may help prevent binge eating disorder:
- eating regularly and avoiding getting too hungry
- not avoiding good tasting food
- eating small or moderate amounts of favorite foods
- having satisfying experiences that do not involve food
- keeping tabs on feelings so they will not lead to binge eating
- being wary of temptations, such as "all you can eat" buffets
Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc. (ANRED), P.O. Box
5102, Eugene, OR 97405-0102.
Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention, Inc. (EDAP), 603 Stewart
Street, Suite 803, Seattle, WA 98101.
Telephone (800) 931-2237 for toll-free information and referral hotline http://www.edap.org
Overeaters Anonymous, 6075 Zenith Ct., N.E., Rio Rancho, NM 87124.