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Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
When it comes to eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the ones people talk about most often.
However, binge eating disorder is actually the most common.
With this in mind, it may be helpful to understand a bit more about this eating disorder. From the name, you can probably tell that it has to do with eating quite a bit at one time. But there’s actually more to it than that.
To understand binge eating and how to treat it, keep reading.
Also called compulsive overeating, binge eating disorder is more common in women than it is in men. This is the most common eating disorder amongst Hispanic, Asian American and African American women.
While it’s normal to overeat on occasion, binge eating is a bit different. The symptoms of binge eating disorder include:
Consuming large amounts of food in a limited period of time — such as within two hours
Feeling that your eating is uncontrollable
Eating large quantities despite not being hungry
Eating to the point of being uncomfortable
Those with binge eating disorder also often will hide their binges and feel guilt or depression around it.
So, how often does a binge have to occur for it to be considered disordered? While there’s no exact time frame, if you binge at least once a week over the course of three months, you may be thought to have this issue.
While overeating is part of bulimia nervosa, a binge eating disorder is different because it does not involve purging.
This can be a very serious condition — it may even be life-threatening for some people. Binge eating disorder can lead to weight issues (such as obesity) and can even cause your stomach to rupture.
Over time, it could also make you more resistant to insulin and cause you to develop type 2 diabetes.
Other health concerns associated with eating disorders include blood pressure issues, high cholesterol, gallbladder disease, heart disease and even some cancers.
Here’s the truth: the cause of binge eating disorder isn’t really known.
There’s some research that a large number of people with this disorder also suffer from depression. However, it’s a bit of a chicken and the egg situation — it’s unknown if depression causes the eating disorder or vice versa.
There also seems to be a correlation between people who diet often and binge eating disorder.
One of the most common treatment options for binge eating disorder is therapy. Specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used to identify patterns and triggers that may lead to binge eating.
From there, you can work with a therapy provider to come up with ways to modify that behavior or avoid those triggers. If you’re dealing with negative emotions around your relationship with food, you can also work through those.
Depending on what triggers the overeating, another type of therapy that can be utilized is interpersonal therapy.
Say, for example, feeling disconnected from loved ones causes you to binge. This form of therapy can help you work on your interpersonal skills and relationships so that binging no longer happens.
If you’redealing with depression along with this type of eating disorder, it may also be recommended that you go on an antidepressant (such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like fluoxetine).
In addition to all of this, a healthcare professional may suggest you see a nutritionist as part of your treatment for binge eating. This person can help you learn about nutrition around your food intake and even make suggestions of what to eat to curb food cravings.
From making sure you get plenty of physical activity to dealing with mental health conditions when they arise, there are a variety of ways to take care of yourself. Along with these things, keeping an eye on potential eating disorders is important.
While there are a variety of eating disorders (like anorexia and bulimia nervosa), the most common one is binge eating disorder. When someone suffers from this, they tend to eat large quantities of food in a short amount of time. Patients with binge eating issues also feel a loss of control over food.
The health consequences of this condition can be quite serious and may include developing high blood pressure, diabetes or even having your stomach rupture. Beyond these things, you may notice body weight gain, which can lead to body dissatisfaction.
All in all, this translates to your quality of life being seriously affected.
One of the most prescribed binge eating disorder treatments is therapy. Psychological treatments could include types of therapy like CBT and interpersonal therapy. Other effective treatments may include taking an antidepressant and working with a nutritionist.
If you would like to speak with a mental health professional, hers offers online mental health consultations that make it easy. If it is determined you have this eating disorder, a healthcare provider can suggest treatments for binge eating. They can also monitor your treatment plan once you have chosen one.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.
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