There are often misconceptions as to what differentiates binge eating from overeating. While a lot of people overeat on occasion, like during the holidays having a second or third plate of food, some people who excessively overeat feel like it is out of their control and it becomes a regular occurrence which crosses over the line into binge eating disorder. They will feel a compulsion that they can’t resist and will continue binge eating.
Binge eating disorder (B.E.D) is defined as recurring episodes of eating significantly more food in a short period of time than most people would eat under similar circumstances, with episodes marked by feelings of lack of control. Someone with binge eating disorder may eat too quickly, even when he or she is not hungry. The person may have feelings of guilt, embarrassment, or disgust and may binge eat alone to hide the behavior. This disorder is associated with marked distress and occurs, on average, at least once a week over three months. (DSM-IV)
Binge Eating Disorder used to be classified under the “eating disorder not otherwise specified” category in the DSM-IV until it became so prevalent in US adults that awareness needed to be increased in order for people suffering from B.E.D. to be able to get properly diagnosed and treated. Another major reason for the change of classification is to emphasize the difference between B.E.D. and common overeating. While B.E.D. is the most common eating disorder among US adults, it is far less common than overeating and far more severe. Long-term side effects include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Pregnancy complications
- Weight gain leading to obesity
More often than not, people who develop B.E.D. use it as a way to cope with emotions and feelings that make them uncomfortable and are unable to deal with them in a healthy way. There is no exact cause for B.E.D. that has been determined at this point, but research is still underway. Much like other addictive diseases such as alcoholism and drug abuse, B.E.D. has been linked to a number of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and chronic anger or sadness. The condition may also run in families as research has suggested that genetic influences could stem from a family history of B.E.D.
According to the Mayo Clinic, behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms of B.E.D. can include:
- Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, such as over a 2-hour period
- Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
- Eating rapidly during binge episodes
- Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
- Frequently eating alone or in secret
- Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty, or upset about your eating
- Frequently dieting possibly without weight loss
B.E.D. is very treatable and each treatment plan is designed specifically for each patient, with the overall goal of helping the person to gain control over his or her eating behavior. If you feel like you or a loved one could possibly be suffering from binge eating disorder, you want to consult your primary physician as soon as possible as B.E.D. can worsen if left untreated.