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Eating Disorders: Binge Eating - By Chris Gearing

Friday, March 01, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what Binge Eating is, what it looks like, and signs of when it's time to get help - click here.

Eating disorders are serious emotional and behavioral mental health conditions that disrupt the individual’s ability to handle food appropriately.

Food becomes an “emotional thermostat” and is used by the individual to control emotions and to lower stress. Routine eating disorder habits include food restriction, excessive consumption of food, purging of food usually by laxatives or vomiting, and compulsive overeating in a short amount of time.

The most common of all eating disorders, binge eating disorder can be a chronic and painful problem.

It affects women more than men and it can last hidden for years by a veil of shame, secrecy, and stress. Since this eating disorder does not involve purging behaviors or excessive exercise, the people suffering with the disorder present with either average weight or are overweight. As with other eating disorders, binge eating involves a central focus on food and the power of food to modulate stress and adversity.

Binge eating disordered patients tend to have higher levels of depression.

In one study, researchers found that these patients had about twice the risk of depression over their lifetime. In addition, these patients struggle with feelings of inadequacy interpersonally, often due to the distress about their body and their disordered eating. Many sufferers reported the disorder affecting their work and impairing their regular activities. It is difficult to be your best when healthy eating is a challenge.

Rapid Consumption:

Frequently, rituals of food consumption are built into daily schedules. The food is most often purchased, either through an impulsive or scheduled visit to the store or fast food outlet and is consumed rapidly in a short amount of time. Rapidity of consumption is usually one of the main clues to this disorder.

Emotional Seesaw:

Following the binge, the individual often experiences an uptick in mood. The food is calming and soothing in the short run. There are usually momentary feelings of control or satisfaction. However, they are soon followed by feelings of shame, self loathing, and depression as they begin to deal with the realities of overeating. Clothes don’t fit, bodies are bloated, energy is sluggish, and any possible weight goals are compromised or eliminated.

Here are some other signs to watch out for:

  • Excessive eating when they don’t feel hungry
  • Eating until there is discomfort
  • Eating rituals that emphasize isolation, secrecy, and control
  • Anger and resentment if any eating ritual is interrupted
  • Depression, negative mood, and feelings of being out of control following the binge cycle
  • Ineffective dieting caused by the caloric overload of binging

Eating disorders are very serious conditions, and they can even be lethal. If you think you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Binge Eating and Bulimia" by Debra L. Safer, Christy F. Telch, and Eunice Y. Chen

The National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)


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