Binge Eating Disorder


What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge Eating Disorder is a serious mental health disorder characterized by the consumption of significantly more food than the typical person may eat in a short period of time. Individuals suffering from binge eating disorder may engage in binge episodes even when not hungry. They may eat more quickly than is typical and feel out of control during binge episodes. Feelings of guilt and embarrassment may be present during and after binge eating episodes. The individual may isolate when engaging in binge eating behaviors.


Medical Issues Associated with Binge Eating Disorder

Note: While several medial issues are described below, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Please seek the help of a medical professional if you suffer from binge eating disorder.

Obesity

Due to the frequent consumption of large amounts of food, binge eating disorder may result in weight gain and obesity. It is important to not that not all individuals suffering from binge eating disorder are overweight or obese, but some of those who suffer from the disorder are.

Other Issues Related to Obesity

Individuals suffering from binge eating disorder who are obese may have subsequent medical problems related to obesity including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).


Treatment of Binge Eating Disorder

There is a bit of disagreement among different groups of experts on the best course of treatment for someone who suffers from binge eating disorder. Some experts feel that psychological treatment focusing on feelings of guilt, self-esteem, body acceptance, and coping with triggers to engage in binge eating is the first and most important element to treatment. However, others argue that for individuals who suffer from binge eating disorder who are obese, treatment should first focus on medical / health issues surrounding weight and then move toward the other elements. All this to say, there is discourse currently in the treatment field.

Below I will list and describe some of the current forms of therapy that help individuals suffering from binge eating disorder.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Often considered the most research supported treatment for binge eating disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on problematic thoughts and feelings that a person experience that result in a problematic behavior. In the case of binge eating disorder, the goal would be to help the individual combat negative thoughts/ feelings about themselves and the tendency to engage in fluctuating diet and then binge eating behavior that often results in continued weight gain and feelings of guilt. Helping the person break this problematic cycle (diet-binge) and replace such behaviors with regular meals, snacks, and flexibility in food choices is key to helping someone break free from binge eating disorder.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

Interpersonal Psychotherapy generally views problems as related to an individual's difficulty in relationships. For binge eating disorder, the idea would be that the lack of interpersonal skills or relational problems result in a coping strategy of engaging in binge eating behaviors in order to cope with feelings of isolation and lack of meaningful connection. It becomes a cycle, because, for the person with binge eating disorder, their binge eating in isolation further removes them from positive social interaction and leads to further struggles with depression, anxiety, guilt, and further binge eating. 

Thus interpersonal psychotherapy seeks to help the individual improve communication skills, engage in positive interactions with loved ones including friends and family, and learn other ways to cope with negative emotions apart from overeating and social isolation. 

There is a helpful article entitled Psychological Treatments for Binge Eating Disorder that further describes these and other therapies aimed at helping individuals suffering from binge eating disorder.