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Understanding Binge Eating Disorder


February 21-27 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Have you ever sat down to a meal, and had just one too many bites past the “full” point? Perhaps it was at an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, or maybe you couldn’t resist your mom’s famous pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner. For most people, such a type of eating occurs only once in a great while. But for some, it becomes a way of life and may happen on a daily basis. At that point, it may develop into an eating disorder called binge eating.

What is Binge Eating Disorder?
People that have a binge eating disorder will often consume an unusually large quantity of food at one time, and they generally have the feeling of being out of control during these eating binges.

Individuals with binge eating disorder might also exhibit the behaviors of eating very rapidly during the binges, eating when they do not need to eat, eating through hunger and to the point where they actually feel very uncomfortably full and even bloated.

People with binge eating disorder will often wish to eat their food alone due to a feeling of embarrassment. They might also experience emotions of disgust at themselves and feel depressed and guilty about their overeating.

What causes Binge Eating?
There is no set reason or explanation for what causes a binge eating disorder to arise in an otherwise healthy person. Depression could be a factor as it has been discovered that over half of the people who have (or have had) a binge eating disorder experienced depression.

Dieting could be another reason for developing a binge eating disorder: a person may miss a meal completely to try to lose weight and then compensate for it by overeating.  Dieters might also be avoiding some of their favorite foods and again have the tendency to compensate for this by overeating. Of course the reason for dieting may also indicate an underlying factor that leads to binge eating or other types of eating disorders.

Some individuals might have emotional difficulties and not be able to handle their feelings well. When they become sad, angry, anxious, bored, worried or stressed they reach for their comforting food and binge eat.

It has also been discovered that there are behaviors that are more common in people with a binge eating disorder, including consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, possessing impulsive behaviors, not thinking rationally, and having a feeling of not being in control.

What can result from Binge Eating Disorder?
The health issues relating to binge eating disorders can be numerous. Often the person becomes severely depressed due to their overeating habits, develops trouble sleeping, experiences mood swings, suffers from stress related problems and may even have thoughts of suicide.

In addition, people with binge eating disorder can gain weight quickly. This can eventually lead to obesity which in turn results in added health issues including high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart disease, diseases of the gallbladder, diabetes and some types of cancer, just to name a few.

Are there any treatment options?
Thankfully, there are treatments available for binge eating disorders. One such option is cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy teaches sufferers how to keep track of what they are eating and how to alter their eating habits. It also teaches them how to cope better with a stressful situation without having to reach for food and it encourages them to feel better about their bodies and their weight.

Interpersonal psychotherapy is another treatment option. This therapy helps the person concerned to take a look at his or her relationships with family members and friends and to make alterations to certain situations involving those relationships. Behavior-based therapy can aid people in regulating their emotions.

As binge eating disorder becomes more well-known and recognizable, support groups have formed to help those suffering. These groups show those affected that they are not alone and that there are other people in their same situation.

What can you do?
If you or someone you love is suffering from binge eating disorder, the first step is to reach out for help. You may want to visit your doctor or other healthcare provider, who can point you in the right direction. There are also a number of eating disorder associations that have been established to help, including the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). A simple online search can lead you to this and other groups dedicated to helping those who are suffering from an eating disorder.

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