“I can’t just stop at one.”
“Eating is the only way I know how to cope with my feelings.”
“I eat in secret so people won’t judge me.”
“I feel like I’m on an emotional rollercoaster.”
“I’m not even hungry, but I can’t stop eating.”
As an experienced therapist, I’ve had countless patients ask me, “What is binge eating, and is it actually considered an eating disorder?” I want to shed some light on this condition and see if it is something that is affecting your life.
What is binge eating?
For years, a generation would joke, “Don’t mind me, I’m just going to eat my feelings.” And while most people share this sentiment once in a while, binge eating is a behavior characterized by consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time, often to the point of discomfort. There is a loss of control during the binge, followed by guilt, distress, or shame afterwards.
Unlike overeating, which is something people do from time to time, binge eating is a recurring and frequent event, and it often becomes a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, and other emotions. If you’d like a more detailed explanation, the Mayo Clinic has an informative piece on it.
Is binge eating considered an eating disorder?
Yes, binge eating is not only considered an eating disorder, it is the most common eating disorder in the United States and associated first world countries. According to the American Psychiatric Association, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is officially recognized as a distinct eating disorder, as of the DSM-5, released in 2013.
What are the problems associated with binge eating?
Five common problems people who struggle with binge eating may encounter:
- Weight Gain and Obesity: This increases the risk of health complications, including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
- Mental Health Issues: People with BED often struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety which can lead to host of more complicated mental health disorders including depression, anxiety disorders, and even suicidal ideation.
- Decreased Social Enjoyment: Those who binge eat often isolate themselves from social activities involving food, due to feelings of embarrassment or fear of judgment.
- Physical Pain: Consuming large quantities of food in one sitting can cause stomach cramps, indigestion, or lethargy.
- Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms: In an effort to control their weight, individuals might resort to unhealthy methods such as fasting, extreme dieting, or excessive exercise.
As a therapist, it’s important for me to clarify that while these problems are common, not everyone with BED will experience all of them. This is why individualized treatment is crucial, as it addresses the specific needs and concerns of each person.
If you or someone you know is struggling with binge eating, professional help is available. Reach out to organizations such as the National Eating Disorder Information Centre for resources and support.
Binge eating is a serious disorder, but with awareness, understanding, and proper intervention, it can be successfully managed.
Learn more about our therapy for disordered eating program here. disordered eating here.