According to the American Brain Society a Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is defined as “an eating disorder characterized by frequent episodes of excess food consumption. The disorder differs from common (and normal) over-eating in that the sufferer often feels that their eating is out of control and that they are powerless to stop the compulsion to eat.” Most individuals will feel as if they have no control over their eating habits leading to them eating too much and too quickly, even when they are not hungry, which results in discomfort. If an individual you know or yourself experience this type of binge eating at least once a week for three consecutive months, you may be diagnosed with BED.
Individuals who suffer from Binge Eating Disorder often eat when feeling under stress, feeling as if one is starving, engage in rapid eating, and at times will feel as if it is taking longer than normal to feel full. The individual often can experience feelings of shame, sometimes will eat alone due to those shameful and guilty feelings, and can begin to experience depression. Feelings of distress related to that behavior is common.

Causes of Binge Eating Disorder

There are so many contributing factors to an eating disorder whether it is Anorexia, Bulimia, or Binge Eating Disorder. Social media, the society pressures, emotional and physical stress, and just the overwhelming feeling of being out of control can alone contribute to these disorders. Although BED is associated with these stressors, the exact cause is unknown. Some known factors that can increase your risk of developing BED include the following;

  • A family history of eating disorders. If your parents or siblings have, or had, an eating disorder, you are at a greater risk of developing one.
  • A history of mental health concerns or negative self-worth. This can include depression, anger, anxiety, a strong need to be in control, perfectionism, a need to please others, and negative feelings about yourself.
  • A history of dieting.
  • Significant loss, relationship problems. BED can be a way of trying to deal with stress and distance yourself from emotional pain.
  • Traumatic History. A history of sexual abuse, physical abuse, weight discrimination, and/or bullying has proven to be a contributing factor to both mental health and negative feelings towards self resulting in the need to control.

Social Distancing and Pandemic Effects on Binge Eating Disorder

Due to the current events taking place there is an increase in panic and anxiety surrounding the majority of the society at this time. This has created this urgency to stockpile and purchase more food then typically would be purchased in a single week or so causing a very challenging environment for an individual who has binge eating tendencies to be surrounded by at this time. As previously mentioned a typical coping skill for someone who is isolating, experiencing feelings of being out of control, or overly anxious is emotional eating. This can fuel that desire to binge eat.

Risks associated with Binge Eating Disorder

Similar to other eating disorders, including bulimia and anorexia, binge eating disorder is a medical condition that can result in critical health complications. It can be difficult to gain control over binge eating but your physical, mental, and emotional health depends on it. Some of the risks associated with this disorder include the following; obesity or overweight, high blood pressure, fatigue, joint or muscle pain, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and heart concerns. These are just some concerns that could arise however there can be many other areas that could be affected both physically and emotionally.

Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder

Treatment approaches are not cookie cutter and vary depending on the person and the diagnosis they presently have. There are a variety of types of treatment that could be beneficial including different levels of care; inpatient, Partial Hospitalization (PHP), Intensive Outpatient (IOP), outpatient services (which include individual and group counseling services) and day programs.
The treatment team should include a registered dietician, mental health professional, and your family/support. There are a variety of treatment approaches that have been identified as successful components for treating eating disorders which include;

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. When engaged within cognitive behavioral therapy the individual will focus on their behaviors as well as their thoughts and feelings related to the eating disorder. This approach enables the opportunity to begin to identify the need to change and action steps to help with that change process.
  • Family-based therapy. At this time, family members will be provided with the opportunity to learn different ways they can engage and help you restore healthy eating patterns.
  • Group cognitive behavioral therapy. In particular short term talk therapy could be beneficial. Group therapy can be challenging because it forces you to be in a vulnerable state where you are in an environment where you are expressing your concerns and feelings with others around you. It can help you address thoughts, feelings and behaviors related to your eating disorder, learn skills to manage symptoms, and regain healthy eating patterns with other individuals who are also in a similar situation as you. It’s a great way to feel accepted and not alone.

It is important during this time that you continue to focus on specific skills that will help with managing your anxiety which can help eliminate some of those impulses to binge eat. This would include practicing meditation and mindfulness techniques, journaling, limiting screen time, engaging with your pets, reading, listening to music, and reminding yourself of gratitude. These are just a few suggestions at this time however remember help is still available and you can access treatment at any time even during a worldwide epidemic by calling your local medical provider or the national hotline at 800-931-2237