Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder or BED is an eating disorder that can be life-threatening but is also a disorder that can be treated. BED is characterized by a person eating large quantities of food to the point of discomfort followed by purging to counter the binge eating episode. It is the most common eating disorder in the United States.
An individual with BED feels a lack of control during the binge eating episode and then feel shame or guilt afterwards. These uncomfortable feelings lead to the purging that follows. The characteristics of BED include:
- A lack of control over eating during the episode.
- Eating for a defined period of time; the amount of food is larger than what most people would consume in the same time period.
- Eating quickly.
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.
- Eating large amounts of food even though the person does not feel physically hungry.
- Eating alone due to embarrassment by the quantity of food consumed.
- Feeling shame or guilt following an episode.
There is treatment available for those with BED and therapy has been shown to be helpful. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help an individual with BED recognize and change the negative thoughts associated with binge eating. Interpersonal psychotherapy or IPT focuses on the individual’s family members and social groups and the way the binge eater sees themselves within these two systems. Individuals with BED may have underlying issues of poor self-esteem or control issues that need to be addressed. Dialectical behavior therapy or DBT can be used to teach individuals stress management techniques and how to regulate emotions. BED appears to be a food-related disorder only; however, many professionals believe that it is an emotional issue that can be treated with awareness training of one’s thoughts and feelings. Sometimes medical professionals will be consulted during treatment to address any concerns related to the physical ramifications of BED.
As with any eating disorder, the individual cannot escape the reality that food is everywhere. Eating at a restaurant for a social event or having a meal with family members simply happens in life. The individual with BED will need to learn to eat normally and in the presence of others. The “Non-Diet” method is frequently used to help those recover from BED. This approach teaches individuals to respond only to the physical sensation of hunger while regulating feelings associated with food and eating. This is often combined with other therapy methods and is showing promise in the treatment of BED.