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Binge Eating Disorder

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Eating disorders are increasingly common in the developed western nations. Eating disorders affect nearly 4 million Americans. Bulimia, Anorexia and binge eating are some of the oft-noticed eating disorders. Binge eating is more pronounced in obese people. But not all obese persons are binge eaters. The consequences of binge eating will spill over into many areas of the patient's life, be it emotional, work, family or social life. While some instances of binge eating can be attributed to deprivation due to excessive dieting and food restrictions, others are a result of emotional or addictive nature. Take a look at how binge eating disorder can wreak havoc on a person's physical, emotional and mental heath.


Binge eating


All of us have overeaten at times - when it's your favorite pudding, the special Thanksgiving meal, pizza treats or other comfort food. You may have gorged occasionally on the tasty hors d'oeuvres at a party or a sumptuous home-cooked meal. But that doesn't account for binge eating. This eating disorder is characterized by frequent bouts of overeating abnormal large quantities of food. Often the person suffering from binge eating disorder is unaware of how much she has eaten. The person eats very rapidly until she is uncomfortably full. Bouts of binge eating are usually followed by feelings of guilt and disgust. Binge eating leads to obesity and its consequent reactions of shame and low self-esteem. Persons suffering from this eating disorder tend to become reclusive and avoid social gatherings and communal activities. They experience feelings of powerlessness and helplessness.

Since eating disorders bring on many a medical condition, it is not possible to specify morbidity rates for such eating disorders. Besides, often such eating disorders go unnoticed or are kept under wraps out of a sense of guilt and shame. Left untreated, the emotional, psychological and physical consequences of binge eating disorder can be devastating. Eating disorders are more prominently noticed among females. This could be due to the increased social pressure to be thin and confirm to prevailing standards of appearance and shape. Causes for binge eating can be many:


  • Often bingeing on food is a reaction to stress or sadness, anxiety, boredom or anger. Such compulsive overeating is representative of a psychological problem that may have its origin deep within. Depressed persons may resort to binge eating as a form of soothing and to fill an emotional void. In fact, they become addicted to food.
  • Binge eating can be fallout of extreme dieting or bulimia, where the person indulges in bouts of yo-yo dieting.
  • Some researchers are of the opinion that binge eating can be traced to genes. Often several members of a family suffer from this eating disorder.

Binge eating can play havoc with your health. It can bring on diabetes, elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels, cardiac disease and even some types of cancer. Gaining weight is a natural consequence of frequent bouts of binge eating. Obesity brings on high blood pressure, joint problems and breathlessness. Binge eating and consequent obesity can cause neuro-endocrine malfunctions. This can result in disturbance in kidney function, appetite and digestion and sexual function.


Treating binge eating disorder

Though losing weight is essential for obese persons suffering from binge eating, strict dieting can be counter productive. Instead it is necessary to treat binge order with behavior therapy and counseling to help the patient overcome his response to stressful situations. Cognitive behavior therapy is often used to treat those suffering from binge eating. Patients are counseled to monitor their eating habits and understand how difficult situations affect their eating patterns. Counseling sessions and self-help groups can provide support.

Interpersonal psychotherapy is aimed at helping patients identify the dysfunctional thought pattern and make suitable changes to their attitudes and beliefs. An obese person with binge eating disorder must be helped to tackle unhealthy eating habits. They must learn to foster more positive feelings about their body shape and weight.

It is essential to monitor the food intake and make lifestyle changes towards eating healthy and eating right. Exercise must be incorporated into the person's lifestyle as it not only helps in shedding the weight but also helps in relieving stress and anxiety. Often antidepressant medication such as Fluoxetine, Sertraline or Desipramine is used to treat those with binge eating disorder.



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