Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Overview
Symptoms
Diagnosis
Causes and risk factors
Effects of Binge Eating disorder
Epidemiology
Treatment approaches
What can I do for myself?
Comorbidities
Summary
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Overview
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a psychological disorder characterized by regular episodes of binge-eating without the use of the compensatory behaviors in an attempt to avoid weight gain (e.g. purging, over-exercising, laxative use) typically associated with Bulimia Nervosa. BED can also be referred to as compulsive eating.

 

Symptoms [Read More]
Physical

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Bloat, constipation or becoming intolerant to certain foods

Psychological

  • Poor body image
  • Low self-esteem
  • Preoccupation with food, body shape, weight
  • Feeling guilty, depressed or ashamed after an episode of binge-eating
  • Difficulty dealing with stress, depression or anxiety

Behavioral

  • Frequently eating alone
  • Increased isolation from people or previously enjoyable activities
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Frequent dieting
  • Eating to deal with stress, depression or anxiety
  • Rapid weight gain and weight loss
  • Self-harm, substance abuse, suicide attempts

 

Diagnosis
To be diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder (BED), an individual must display the following criteria as listed by the DSM-V:

  • Recurring episodes of binge-eating. Binge-eating is characterized by:
    • Eating an amount of food (within 2 hours) that is larger than what most people would eat within this time period.
    • Feeling a loss of control over eating within the time period (e.g. can’t stop eating or control how much).
  • The binge-eating episodes are characterized by 3 or more of the following:
    • Eating faster than normal.
    • Eating until uncomfortably full.
    • Eating large amount of food even if not hungry.
    • Eating alone because of embarrassment about the amount of food being eaten.
    • Feeling disgusted, depressed or guilty afterwards.
  • Noticeable distress from the binge-eating episodes.
  • Binge-eating occurs at least once a week for at least 3 months.
  • Does not include compensatory behaviors to make up for binge-eating such as those seen in Bulimia Nervosa or Anorexia Nervosa (vomiting, laxative use, etc).

Click here to view the DSM-V criteria for the diagnosis of Bulimia Nervosa.

 

Causes and Risk Factors

Psychological Causes and Risk Factors
Research has shown that there is a strong link between Depression and BED; most individuals with BED Depression. Factors such as low self-esteem, difficulty dealing with emotions, low impulse-control, feelings of loneliness and a negative body image may also contribute to the onset and maintenance of BED.

Social Causes and Risk Factors
Many cultures and societal norms also put much pressure on being thin, which can contribute to the onset and perpetuation of BED by creating a world in which food is associated with shame. Being constantly exposed to an unrealistic body “ideal” can bring forth feelings of low self-esteem that in turn contributes to the development of an eating disorder.  Certain parents might use food as a reward or as means of comforting their children, which in turn could lead to developing BED later in life.

A history of being constantly criticized about ones appearance and a history of sexual abuse also seem to coincide with a diagnosis of BED.

Biological Causes and Risk Factors
BED appears to run in families - an individual with a family member with BED will be more likely to develop it themselves. Recent research also suggests that a certain gene mutation may result in ineffective transmission of hunger suppressing signals to the brain [Read More].

 

Effects of Binge Eating Disorder
Individuals with BED are more likely to gain weight and become obese, which in turn comes with a number of health complications such as Diabetes (type II), high blood pressure, increased chance of heart disease and high cholesterol levels.

Click here to read more about the effects of Binge Eating Disorder.

 

Epidemiology
Between 3-5% of women and 2% of men have Binge Eating Disorder, and it is more common among Caucasians, African Americans and Hispanics. The onset of BED tends to be during the teenage years or early adolescence. Individuals with BED are also more likely to also have depression or an anxiety disorder [Read More].

 

Treatment Approaches
Like when treating Bulimia Nervosa, treatment of BED focuses mainly on psychotherapy. Recovery may also involve seeing a medical doctor to assess any medical concerns that may have surfaced as a result of the disorder.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is considered the most effective form of psychotherapy for the treatment of BED, and focuses on changing the negative thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that fuel binge-eating behavior. CBT for BED focuses on breaking the binge-eating pattern, help track eating habits, and avoid situations that may trigger a binge episode. Additional psychotherapy or medication may be needed to simultaneously treat any other coexisting psychological disorders such as depression or anxiety.

It is also important for an individual with BED to receive help from a professional dietician or nutritionist who can help educate about food and nutrition as well as meal planning.

 

What Can I Do For Myself?
Making the choice to seek help or confide in someone about Binge Eating Disorder is a very difficult choice to make - many feel like bingeing is the only way they can deal with their emotions or stress. Bingeing does not mean you are weak. Recovery is possible.

One of the most important factors when it comes to refraining from binge-eating is managing stress. Find ways (that do not involve food) in which you can relieve stress, such as meditating, exercising, and using relaxation and breathing strategies.

Make meal plans and stick to them. Eat healthy snacks in addition to 3 meals a day to keep away hunger cravings that might result in an unintentional binge later – this means no dieting! Putting restrictions on what foods you can and cannot eat can worsen cravings for them, and fuel the guilt-stress-binge cycle that you want to get out of.

Exercise! Not only will exercising help you lose weight you may have gained due to BED, but will also make you feel happier, less tired and less stressed.

Clear your home of your favourite binge foods and keep yourself busy. You are more likely to binge if you’re bored and have unhealthy snacks and junk food close by.

Surround yourself with people, places and activities that promote a positive body image. Constantly being exposed to society’s “ideals”, friends/family who are overly concerned with their appearance, and messages promoting body shaming can make recovery all that more difficult. Make use of your support system. Let your family and friends as well as professionals help you in your journey to beat BED.

Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Counseling for your eating disorder is an extremely important part of the recovery process - doctors and psychologists can help you develop a healthy relationship with food and a more positive body image, as well as helping you deal with stressful situations in your life that don't involve self-destructive habits. Nutritionists/dieticians can teach you about healthy eating and assist in developing meal plans [Read More].

 

Comorbidities
Research suggests that BED is highly comorbid with mood, anxiety and substance use disorders. According to one study. 73.8% of individuals with BED had at least one lifetime psychological disorder [Read More].

 

Summary
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is an eating disorder characterized by regular episodes of binge-eating without the use of the compensatory behaviors in an attempt to avoid weight gain (e.g. purging, over-exercising, laxative use) typically associated with Bulimia Nervosa.

Binge Eating Disorder can be seen in 3-5% of women and in around 2% of men, and is as common in Caucasians, African Americans and Hispanics. The onset of BED tends to be in the teenage years or early adolescence. Individuals with BED are more likely to also have depression or an anxiety disorder [Read More].

Symptoms of BED include episodes of binge-eating, during which an individual consumes a larger-than-normal amount of food within 2 hours and feels out of control and unable to stop eating although full. These episodes of binge-eating occur at least once a week for 3 months and are followed by feelings of guilt, depression and shame.

Individuals with BED are more likely to gain weight and become obese, which in turn comes with a number of health complications such as Diabetes (type II), high blood pressure, increased chance of heart disease and high cholesterol levels.

Treatment for BED tends to consist of Cognitive-Behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy where the goal is to change harmful thoughts (poor body image) and behaviors (episodes of binge-eating).

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