Binge eating disorder is a severe eating disorder that can have life-threatening complications. Despite its severity, the condition is treatable. Many individuals aren't aware binge eating disorder is a medically recognized eating disorder. Patients with this condition go through multiple episodes of eating extremely large amounts of food, often causing themselves discomfort. To be a disordered eating behavior, there must be feelings of distress, guilt, or shame afterward, coupled with a feeling of losing control during the binge itself.
Unlike eating disorders like bulimia, individuals with binge eating disorder do not purge, starve themselves, or use other unhealthy means of compensating for the binge. This condition is the most commonly occurring eating disorder in the United States. It's important for individuals to be educated about the symptoms of binge eating disorder so they may seek appropriate treatment.
Eating When Full Or Not Hungry
Eating when full or not hungry is one of the most common signs of binge eating disorder. When someone has this condition, they're generally using food as a way of coping with life stress or a way of getting positive feelings. Rather than eating because they're hungry and need nutrition, they eat for the emotional benefits of the binge. These benefits are short-lived, though. Patients may not even experience positive emotions while bingeing, especially if they feel they don't have any control over their actions.
It's important to note eating out of boredom is different from binge eating disorder or other eating disorders. Boredom eating can usually be handled with simple lifestyle changes and more mindfulness about diet. Binge eating disorder, on the other hand, has a mental health component that can't go untreated. Without treating the underlying mental illness, patients will continue to lose control when they eat.
Eating Unusually Large Amounts Of Food
Binge eating disorder patients commonly find themselves eating unusually large amounts of food. They also tend to eat this food very quickly rather than spreading it out. Binges involve the consumption of a great deal of food in a short period of time, usually a few hours or less. Many individuals with this eating disorder have a history of dieting. When individuals restrict the calories they take in, they may trigger binges because they've denied themselves certain foods or portions. While binge eating disorder patients don't purge, they may start diets to try to make up for the binge eating.
Unfortunately, this can lead to a vicious cycle of diet-triggered bingeing, followed by dieting to make up for the binges. Eating large quantities of food can cause individuals to gain large amounts of weight and also cause problems with metabolic regulation. If individuals gain too much weight, they may develop weight-related conditions like type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and heart disease.
Eating Behavior Seems Out of Control
When an individual has binge eating disorder, one of the first signs others might notice is their eating behavior seems out of control. In addition, feeling 'out of control' can sometimes be the trigger that makes patients realize they have a problem. Individuals with binge eating disorder may plan their binges, but once they start eating, it's common for them to be unable to stop.
Medical practitioners determine how severe a patient's binge eating disorder is based on how many times they binge per week. The loss of self-control can be very distressing, which just adds to whatever stress or emotional struggles patients are experiencing in their day-to-day lives. While binge eating disorder-related behaviors often start as a means of comforting oneself, they can quickly spiral into a mental illness patients can't control or stop on their own.
Often Eating In Secret
Patients with binge eating disorder may develop a habit of eating in secret. Many do their best to hide their unhealthy eating habits from friends and family, so they may have perfected routines to avoid others seeing them binge. In addition, patients with this eating disorder may have trouble eating in front of others even when they're consuming normal portions. The feeling of being out-of-control leads to intense feelings of guilt, shame, depression, and fear surrounding food.
Unfortunately, this unhealthy association with food makes it more difficult to begin eating a healthier diet. To truly treat their condition, patients must address the mental relationship they have with food. They must also educate themselves about healthy eating habits and ideal nutrition. For some individuals, binge eating disorder may be related to an underlying mental illness like depression or generalized anxiety. It's important to have these things evaluated and treated by a doctor or mental health practitioner.
Eating Until Uncomfortably Full
One of the common behaviors surrounding binge eating disorder is patients eating until they're uncomfortably full. With healthy eating patterns, an individual eats when they're hungry, and after they've eaten enough, their body gives them the signal they're full and should stop. Their digestive system breaks down the food, and once the meal has been fully broken down, they feel hungry again. However, the behaviors of individuals with binge eating disorder aren't related to the body's hunger signals.
Just like eating when not hungry, patients may eat until they're uncomfortably full, ignoring signals from their body. They may feel bloated and nauseous. Unlike bulimia, they don't take measures to purge the food like throwing up, and they don't engage in unhealthy behaviors like over-exercising, but these feelings of uncomfortable fullness can add to the shame and guilt surrounding food.