What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating disorder is a diagnosis given when persons repeatedly overconsume quantities of food to the point of feeling unwell, and who experience the feeling that they have lost control over how much and/or what they are eating.
Binge eating disorder is different from bulimia in that the episodes of overeating are not followed by attempts to negate the overconsumption (i.e. taking laxatives, self-induced vomiting, extreme exercise sessions, etc.) Binge eating episodes (within the context of the clinical disorder) are commonly understood to be a maladaptive mechanism by which the individual uses binging to numb or relieve unwanted, negative emotions. Binging behaviour can produce short-term metabolic results that produce an actual sensation of euphoria, numbness, or lethargy.
Psychologically, the binge may produce feelings that distract from the original unwanted feelings that the sufferer feels are self-controlled.
To meet the criteria for an episode of binge eating as defined by the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2013), an episode of binge-eating must:
- Occur in a limited period of time and be significantly in excess of what most people might consume in a similar situation;
- Involve a sense of lacking control over the quantity and quality of food consumed;
- Be marked by eating faster than normal, self-isolation due to feelings of shame related to the overeating, eating when not hungry, and feelings of guilt, disgust or depression after the binge.
Signs & Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
Individuals with binge eating disorder may have bodyweights ranging from relatively normal (respective to height/weight) to severely obese, and weight gain may be although is not necessarily a feature of Binge Eating Disorder. Individuals who are overweight are likely to experience the same symptoms as other persons with unhealthy bodyweights.
Binge eating behaviors often produce feelings of guilt and shame that lead to social withdrawal and isolation, in addition to overly rigid and often secretive behavior patterns. Anxiety, including obsessive compulsive behaviors, frequently co-occurs with Binge Eating Disorder, as does depression. Mood disturbance may precede an eating disorder or may occur as a result of an eating disorder and the associated negative feelings.
Contributing Factors to Binge Eating Disorder
Like other eating disorders, binge eating disorder is often part of a cyclical experience in which destructive behaviors and negative feelings reinforce and perpetuate each other in an ongoing feedback loop. An individual who initially may have used food in a non-binging capacity to self-soothe may experience negative feelings such as guilt and shame and seek further food-related comfort, and so on, until they experience a full-fledged binge episode with the attending negative emotions.
How to Recover from Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder is a serious condition with severe medical and difficult mental health consequences. Professional medical and psychological treatment can help individuals with Binge eating disorder learn to manage negative emotions in healthy ways.
Individual, family, and group therapies; specialised treatment modalities; medications; expert psychotherapy, and medical interventions are all tools that help individuals recover from Binge Eating Disorder. Evaluation by licensed medical and mental health professionals help individuals develop personalised treatment plans that address each person’s unique needs for recovery.
At Castle Craig we treat people suffering from alcohol or drugs addiction, who have also been diagnosed with binge eating disorder. Contact us for more information.
Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked January 14, 2022