We have all heard or used the phrase “binge eating” or “binging.” It is a phrase that gets thrown around often, especially during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons. Most of us use it to describe eating more than normal portions at a meal or continuing to take a few more bites because it tastes so good! However, true binge eating can be a psychological disorder.
Binge-Eating Disorder (BED) is a new diagnosis added to the category of Feeding and Eating Disorders found in the DSM-5. It is the most common eating disorder in the United States. The number of those suffering from BED outnumbers individuals experiencing anorexia and bulimia combined by more than three times. Current estimates suggest that 3.5% of women and 2% of men suffer from this disorder. While the estimated number of people experiencing BED might not initially seem large, when calculated it comes out to be 2.8 million American adults. That puts it into perspective.
So what exactly is BED? It is considered to be, “Eating in response to something other than physical hunger in an attempt to numb unwanted or uncomfortable emotions that goes beyond emotional eating or compulsive overeating,” (Binge-Eating Disorder, 2016). During these binge episodes, individuals have uncontrollable and unstoppable urges to eat. They will even eat to the point of discomfort and/or actual pain. Additionally, during an episode, a BED sufferer may consume several thousand calories which can be very unhealthy. Afterwards, they often feel shameful and guilty. Many desperately try to hide their binge eating from others.
The DSM-5 lists the following official criteria for a BED diagnosis:
A. Recurrent episodes of binge eating characterized by both 1.) Eating in a discrete period of time an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances 2.) a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode
B. The episodes are associated with three or more of the following 1.) Eating much faster than usual 2.) Eating to the point of discomfort or pain 3.) Eating large amounts of food even though you are not physically hungry 4.) Eating alone due to embarrassment resulting from the large amount of food consumed 5.) Feeling guilty, shameful and/or disgusted after the episode.
C. Increased stress due to binge eating
D. Experiencing binge eating episodes at least once a week for three months
E. Binge eating is not followed by unsuitable, compensatory actions (such as bulimia) and does not occur in concurrence with anorexia or bulimia nervosa.
While approximately 30% of individuals with BED fall within normal weight categories for their height, 70% are considered overweight. Bullying, shaming and stigmas surrounding weight can often trigger more intense and/or more frequent episodes of binge eating as well as additional emotional distress. Some additional, common psychological issues that those who suffer from BED experience are OCD, anxiety, and depression. Common physical health issues also experienced are type 2 diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and osteoarthritis.
Individuals suffering from the symptoms of BED often feel like they are out of control. Through repetition of binge eating, their brains have actually been altered to respond to food in a very comparable way to that of the brain of a substance user/drug addict. Unfortunately, though, they can’t just stop eating. Therefore, the goal of treatment for BED is a reduction or complete cessation of binging episodes. Treatment teams consisting of an individual’s PCP, psychologist and dietician have proven to be more effective then utilizing one of the services alone. Support groups for individuals suffering from BED as well as additional resources can now be found online.
“Binge-Eating Disorder.” Binge-Eating Disorder. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 June 2016. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-Control/binge_eating/Pages/binge-eating-disorder.aspx
“Binge-eating Disorder.” Overview. N.p., 2016. Web. 03 June 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/binge-eating-disorder/home/ovc-20182926 – 37k
“Eating Disorders: About More Than Food.” NIMH RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 June 2016. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders-new trifold/index.shtml
“Info about Binge-Eating Disorder in Adults.” Binge-Eating Disorder. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 June 2016. http://www.bingeeatingdisorder.com/
WKPIC Doctoral Intern