Those who find themselves frequently losing control when it comes to food may wonder "do I have a binge eating disorder?" To be diagnosed with a binge eating disorder (BED), individuals must meet certain criteria in terms of their behavior and way of thinking about food.
Despite only being officially added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013, binge eating disorder is an incredibly common condition and even more prevalent than anorexia and bulimia. Around 2.8 million people in the US suffer from BED, and it is more likely to affect men than women.
People can be affected by BED at any point in their lives, but it tends to be most common in women during adolescent years and early 20s. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to develop the condition in midlife.
There are many symptoms, however, the most significant symptom of binge eating disorder is eating very large quantities of food, often very quickly and in secret, with a feeling of being out of control of your consumption. However, there are certain criteria that patients must meet to determine if they truly have BED or are simply going through a period of disordered eating.
For a BED diagnosis, individuals must have recurrent binges, at least once a week for at least three months. They will feel concerned that their binge eating is abnormal or doing them harm, and with each episode they will feel out of control over the quantities of food eaten and their ability to stop eating.
Three of the following factors must also be present for a BED diagnosis:
It is not fully understood what causes BED, and it's likely that it could be different for each person. For some, binge eating might be a distraction from stress, worry, sadness or past trauma. For others, it may stem from boredom or feelings of loneliness.
Those with a family history of eating disorders may be at greater risk of developing BED. However, it is not clear if it is genetic factors or environmental factors which could cause the condition to occur in multiple generations.
Many sufferers of BED suffer with low self-esteem and a lack of confidence and use binge eating as a way to cope with their feelings. However, BED often leads to weight gain and obesity, which in turn can heighten problems with low self-esteem and confidence, thus creating a cycle that is difficult to overcome.
On the subject of weight gain, it's important to note that unlike the two other recognized eating disorders, bulimia and anorexia nervosa, most BED sufferers don't usually adopt harsh restrictive behaviors such as fasting, excessive exercising or purging in order to compensate for overeating. However, strict diets and cutting out certain foods in an attempt to lose weight can sometimes cause BED to develop.
Two out of three people with binge eating disorder are obese, which indicates that the biggest health risk associated with condition is weight gain. Obesity increases the risk of a whole host of health complications, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, breast cancer and bowel cancer, osteoarthritis, fatty liver disease and hypertension.
BED is also strongly linked with mental health problems. Almost half of BED patients have a mood disorder such as depression, and over half have an anxiety disorder. Sometimes these psychological problems occur as a result of BED, and other times the BED is caused by them and subsequently exacerbates them.
There are many different treatments for binge eating disorder, the effectiveness of each varying from patient to patient. Sometimes a combination of treatments may be most effective.
Group therapy sessions can allow patients to share experiences with others with BED and provide mutual support.
Therapies such as CBT, DBT and IPT can help patients to understand the root cause of their BED, recognize emotions which often trigger binges, and change their thought processes and coping mechanisms to overcome the condition.
Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors are antidepressants which can help to improve mood and as a result reduce the frequency of binges.