Binge eating disorders refers to an eating disorder characterized by regular and periodical episodes of binge eating without any compensatory measures that might help the binge eater remove extra calories gained through binge eating.
Everyone might overeat sometimes but the people with binge eating disorder do it frequently. Most often they do it to cope with negative emotions or stress and then they feel worse. Therefore a vicious circle develops.
The people with binge eating disorder are ashamed of their habits.
The good news is binge eating disorder is treatable.
Compulsive Overeating vs. Binge Eating Disorder
There’s still a debate if compulsive overeating and compulsive overeating are two distinct disorder or they are the same disorder.
The two disorders are pretty similar but unlike the binge eating disorder compulsive overeating involves grazing behavior which means compulsive overeaters might return and pick food again and again, sometimes all day long.
Compulsive overeating is continuous overeating; it’s not just an episode. Some specialists still consider binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating as a single disorder because there are only a few differences.
Compulsive overeaters might hide food in the strangest places including closets, suitcases, clothes or under the bed.
While the binge eaters will have an episode and then they will make sure they leave no sign of a binge eating episode.
Binge eating disorder is new in the DSM and it appears only in the last edition, DSM 5. Binge eating disorder was not recognized in the DSM IV.
Signs and Symptoms
A binge eater is feeling guilty and will often try to hide the habits. Often they will eat the whole donuts in a box then they will go and buy another box and makes sure no one will notice.
During the binge episodes the affected people will feel out of control. And after a binge eating episode they will feel guilt and remorse.
Also people with binge eating disorder will eat when they are not hungry or they will continue eating after they feel full up to the point of physical discomfort. And they will eat alone because of shame.
In most of the cases people with binge eating become overweight but not all the people with binge eating disorder are overweight. Some of them have a normal weight.
In order to be diagnosed with binge eating disorder a person should present the following symptoms.
- Recurrent binge eating episodes.
- Both of the following signs should be present to diagnose a recurrent episode of binge eating:
- Eating, in a given period of time a quantity of food larger than what a normal person would eat under the same circumstances and the same period of time.
- Feeling out of control during the binge eating episode. Affected people might feel they can’t control how much or what they eat.
- The features of a binge eating episode.
- Eating a large quantity of food when not hungry
- Eating faster than normal
- Eating alone because of shame
- A feeling of guilt and disgust with oneself
- Eating until physically uncomfortable
- Marked distress concerning binge eating should be displayed
- In order to be diagnosed with binge eating disorder someone should have recurrent episodes of binge eating for minimum 3 months at least once a week.
- The binge eating episode should not involve compensatory measures meant to remove food before digestion nor should it happen only during anorexia nervosa.
If someone has episodes of binge eating it does not meant that person has binge eating disorder. Some people might binge now and then without any significant consequences.
The most common cause of binge eating is rigid dieting. Restrictive diets have been proved to be the factor triggering binge eating disorder. Also people with binge eating disorder might go back and forth between restrictive dieting and binge eating.
Other causes might involve biological differences. According to some studies showed that certain regions of the brain of the affected people are different in size and shape. Also the brain chemistry seems to be different in the people with binge eating disorder.
The brain differences include differences in striatal regions, anterior insula and anterior ventral striatal pathway. Also the brain circuit and serotonin pathway might be altered in people with eating disorders
Genetics have also been shown to play an important role in the development of binge eating disorder. It seems it’s more likely to get Binge Eating disorder if someone in your family has an eating disorder.
Traumatic events might also play an important role in the development of binge eating disorder as people with binge eating disorder often lack the skills to tolerate and cope with negative experiences. Therefore they might use food to cope with negative emotions and experiences.
Anxiety, depression and low self-esteem are pretty common among people with binge eating disorder.
Cultural and Social Causes
A thin beauty ideal can lead to restrictive dieting that might lead to binge eating disorder. Also a person who grows in a family where food is used to reward the children for their accomplishments might also be an important factor in the development of binge eating disorder.
For treatment and a better understanding of the disorder, the specialized help of a trained therapist might be necessary.