What is binge eating?
As described in the diagnostic manual, used by clinicians who treat eating disorders, defines binge eating as “eating abnormally large” amounts of food.
Binge eating is simply consuming large quantities of food in a very short space of time, even when not hungry, to the point of being uncomfortable. Mostly everyone overeats once in a while, but it can also become an on going issue for many.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a serious but treatable condition involving recurrent episodes of consuming large quantities of food.
According to The National Eating Disorders Association, BED was formally added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in 2013.
“It’s official! Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is now an actual eating disorder diagnosis in the DSM-5 which was released by the American Psychiatric Association in May 2013. DSM stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.”
In addition to eating larger quantities of food to excess, and to the point of discomfort, binge eating is characterised by feeling out of control when eating and a sense of shame or guilt can often be experienced.
Episodes of overeating that are classified as binge eating can significantly and negatively impact your health and well-being, so it is especially important to identify the signs and symptoms of binge eating and get help.
BED is the most common eating disorder in the United States. In adults it affects 3.5% of women, 2% of men and up to 1.6% of adolescents. In women it is most common in early adulthood and more common in men at midlife.
What causes binge eating?
The exact causes of binge eating are not known. Some of the possible causes include:
Research suggests that binge eating may have a strong genetic component such as hormonal irregularities or genetic mutations may be associated with compulsive eating and food addiction.
You are much more likely to develop an eating disorder if someone in
your immediate family also has an eating disorder.
Other psychological conditions:
Most people who binge eat tend to have another mental health condition such
as depression, anxiety, or a substance use disorder.
A strong correlation has been established between depression and binge
Body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and difficulty coping with feelings can
also contribute to binge eating.
Dieting and body image issues:
Research suggests that people who develop binge eating disorder tend to have a negative body image and have a history of dieting and overeating.
Social and Cultural:
Traumatic situations, such as a history of sexual abuse, can increase the risk of binge eating. Social pressures to be thin, which are typically influenced through media, can trigger emotional eating. Pressure from society or your job – for example, ballet dancers, jockeys, models or athletes.
Persons subject to critical comments about their bodies or weight may be especially vulnerable to a binge eating disorder.
What are the signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder
What the NHS say
The most common symptom of binge eating is eating very large amounts of food in a short space of time, often in an out-of-control way. However, symptoms may also include:
Eating very fast during a binge
Eating until you feel uncomfortably full
Eating when you're not hungry
Eating alone or secretly
Feeling depressed, guilty, ashamed or disgusted after binge eating
People who regularly eat in this way may have Binge Eating Disorder.
More warning signs and symptoms of binge eating
Emotional and behavioural
Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or lots of empty wrappers and containers.
Uncomfortable eating around others
Any new practice with food or diets, such as, cutting out entire food groups (no sugar, no carbs, no dairy, vegetarianism/veganism etc,)
Anxiety of eating in public / with others
Steals or hoards food in strange places
Creating schedules or rituals to make time for binge sessions
Withdrawing from usual friends and activities
Extreme concern with body weight and shape
Often checking in the mirror for perceived flaws in appearance
Has secret recurring episodes of binge eating (eating in a discrete period of time an amount of food that is much larger than most individuals would eat under similar circumstances); feels lack of control over ability to stop eating
Disruption in normal eating behaviours, including eating throughout the day with no planned mealtimes; skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals; engaging in sporadic fasting or repetitive dieting
Developing food rituals (e.g., eating only a particular food or food group [e.g., condiments]).
Eating alone out of embarrassment at the quantity of food being eaten
Feelings of disgust, depression, or guilt after overeating
Feelings of low self-esteem / self worth
Noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down
Stomach cramps, other non-specific gastrointestinal complaints (constipation, acid reflux, etc.)
8 Binge eating Myths
1. Binge eating disorder is uncommon and rare among the different types of eating disorders – FALSE!
In fact, many people binge eat and it is very common.
2. Binge eating leads to a person being overweight – FALSE!
Many people that binge eat are slim, they may just exercise more frequently, however, there is still a psychological issue as to why they binge eat, just as there is with overweight binge eaters.
3. A person who binges just hasn’t tried hard enough or found the right diet – FALSE!
Binge eating is not about dieting, this will not fix the problem, it will just wallpaper over the cracks. The problem is the psychological.
4. Weight loss will cure the problem – FALSE!
Weight loss will be the result when the issue behind the binge eating has been dealt with
5. Binge eating disorder is the same as overeating – FALSE!
Over eating can be as simple as eating one extra mouthful than your body requires. Binge eating is over indulging in food in one sitting.
6. There’s an easy fix for binge eating disorder, just eat less – FALSE!
Those who binge eat are almost unable to stop because something in their mind is driving them to eat to satisfy an unmet psychological need
7. Binge eating disorder only involves high-fat food – FALSE!
8. Binge eating disorder only impacts women – FALSE!
Anyone of any age can binge eat and the reason for why will be completely different for each person.
Complications associated with binge eating
Binge eating can cause a number of health complication such as
Type 2 Diabetes
Insomnia or sleep apnea
Muscle and/or joint pain
Depression and/or anxiety
If you are concerned, please go to your Doctor right away.
Binge eating disorder and anxiety
Eating Disorder Hope say
Binge eating disorder (BED) and anxiety are deeply intertwined and often co-occur. In fact, approximately 37% of those who are diagnosed with BED are also diagnosed with a full-fledged anxiety disorder. Rather than a linear relationship model (i.e., that anxiety leads to binge eating behaviors or binge eating behaviors lead to anxiety), BED and anxiety are much more transactional and are comprised of biological, psychological, and social factors.
Night Eating Syndrome:
Night Eating Syndrome (NES) was first recognized in 1955 by psychiatrist, Dr. Albert Stunkard. NES is an eating disorder in which the affected individual wakes several times in the night and is unable to fall back to sleep without eating, even though he or she is not actually hungry. The food eaten is often unhealthy and high in calories.
Warning signs of binge eating disorder in someone else
The following warning signs could indicate that someone you care about has an eating disorder:
Eating a lot of food, very fast
Trying to hide how much they are eating
Storing up supplies of food
Putting on weight – though this doesn't happen to everyone with binge eating disorder