Binge Eating Disorder

At the core of a Binge Eating Disorder is a vicious circle. Uncomfortable psychological states lead to a person seeking relief through binge eating which results in uncomfortable psychological states, to which binge eating is the now reflexive response.

The emotional impact

After a bingeing episode, people with Binge Eating Disorder often feel depressed, guilty, ashamed and disgusted with themselves. They sometimes describe a sense of being detached from the behaviour, as if on autopilot. The feeling of being unable to control the urge to binge only exacerbates any existing symptoms of depression and despair.

Signs of a Binge Eating Disorder

Indications that a Binge Eating Disorder may have taken hold include:

  • Buying large quantities of food
  • Hoarding food
  • Thinking all the time about food
  • Organising time around binge eating
  • Eating large amounts of food in a short space of time
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Eating until becoming uncomfortably full
  • Avoiding eating when other people are present
  • Eating in secret
  • Reducing social activity and compromising personal plans and ambitions

A variety of harmful consequences

Binge eating is experienced by both men and women and usually starts in teenage years or soon after. Ritual plays a part as binges are often planned in advance and involve specific foods. Besides the psychological impact, there are usually physical consequences, which may (although not always) include putting on excessive weight with its associated harmful effects. Dieting is not advised as it can lead to a worsening of the condition.

General fitness is likely to deteriorate, with sleep disturbance and chronic tiredness common. Problems with digestive organs may be experienced.  The disorder commonly also impacts other areas of life as sufferers may avoid social interaction out of embarrassment or depressed mood. Low self-esteem may be an underlying factor in the development of a Binge Eating Disorder but the condition helps to perpetuate and reinforce that mental state too.

Recovery from Binge Eating Disorder is possible

Happily, most people suffering from Binge Eating Disorder can recover, although it may take some time. Recovery involves a real and lasting commitment to self-help in order to change the mood-altering relationship with food.  Given the challenge faced, this is probably best achieved with the professional support.

Specialist psychotherapy in a well-structured programme is one option, with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy a widely endorsed model. Other people are drawn to a mutual aid approach involving a suitable 12-Step fellowship, while on-line support groups have also emerged more recently.  It is important that what is on offer makes sense to the person seeking help and is one with which they feel they can fully engage.

A therapeutic programme should include:

  • Monitoring eating patterns
  • Drawing up realistic meal plans
  • Recognising the situational and emotional triggers for a binge eating episode
  • Identifying and addressing underlying issues
  • Preparing alternative actions to bingeing in response to stress
  • Finding positive ways to cope with negative feelings

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