Binge eating disorder is a type of eating disorder categorized by episodes of eating unusual amounts of food. As with all eating disorders, binge eating disorder is classified as a mental health condition. Binge eating disorder can be dangerous if left untreated.
Binge eating disorder is diagnosed by the regularity of episodes of binge eating. During a binge, a person eats more than what may consider a usual amount of food. While everyone eats a little too much on occasion, someone with binge eating disorder experiences these episodes regularly. During the diagnosis process, a doctor will determine the disorder’s severity based on how many binge-eating episodes a person experiences on an average week.
After an episode, someone suffering from binge eating disorder may feel embarrassed by the amount of food they ate. They may also attempt to hide that fact from others. However, unlike with bulimia nervosa, someone suffering from binge eating disorder will not try to purge themselves afterward.
Commonly, someone suffering from binge eating disorder is overweight or obese. It is also possible, however, that they appear an average, healthy weight. Different effects the disorder has on weight gain could be partially due to the severity of the condition or the different metabolisms.
After an episode, a person may likely experience a level of discomfort. The large amount of food eaten will probably be a burden on the stomach. Depending on the circumstances, this could be a mild feeling of bloating or serious abdominal pain. Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States.
The symptoms associated with binge eating disorder may be less apparent to others than other eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia. Due to a feeling of embarrassment, someone suffering from binge eating disorder will likely avoid eating around others. They will also likely try to hide evidence of a binge episode, such as food wrappers.
The weight of someone with binge eating disorder may fluctuate. It is also possible a person consistently seems to be dieting or exercising without losing weight. Depending on the severity of the disorder and how often episodes occur, it can be challenging to lose weight, even if they live a healthy lifestyle outside of those episodes.
Someone with binge eating disorder will often account for these episodes in their life. They may store or hide large amounts of food in their room or house as a precaution. It is also possible they carve out hours for a binge episode. To overcompensate, they may skip other meals, or eat small amounts, because they are preparing themselves for a binge episode.
In all likelihood, a person with binge eating disorder will understand they have an issue and want to stop. However, no matter how hard they may try, it can be near impossible to stop without help.
The inability to stop and recognition of the disorder may cause a negative impact on a person’s self-esteem. They may begin to feel a worsened sense of self-worth and can develop depression.
There may be no understood direct cause of binge eating disorder, but more likely, it is a combination of factors. Binge eating disorder can develop in any person, although it is more common in women than men. While 3.6% of women may experience symptoms associated with binge eating disorder, just 2% of men will. This discrepancy could be a matter of genetics or representative of the ways in which women face more societal pressure and weight stigmatization today.
Emotional trauma, especially at a young age, can play a role in developing the disorder. Trauma could include the loss of a loved one, bullying, or abuse. It is also more likely to develop the disorder if a close family member also suffers from an eating disorder. This could be a matter of genetics or learned behavior.
Mental health and brain chemistry can play prominent roles as well. It is believed that people who suffer from binge eating disorder have an increased sensitivity to dopamine and have a different brain structure that may intensify how their brain reacts to food.
It is also far more likely to develop binge eating disorder if someone is already suffering from another mental health disorder. Among people suffering from binge eating disorder, 80% also suffer from another mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety.
It is crucial to seek treatment for binge eating disorder if you are experiencing any associated symptoms. Binge eating disorder can be harmful to your health if left untreated for an extended period. There is no cure for the disorder, but it is considered to be treatable.
Treatment for any eating disorder is likely to be based on psychotherapy, although medications and nutrition counseling can also be used as aspects of a more comprehensive treatment plan. The most common medications to be prescribed for an eating disorder are antidepressants. If mental health challenges such as anxiety or depression played a factor in the development of an eating disorder, antidepressants could be beneficial.
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