Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder in which you consume large amounts of meals in a short period of time and are unable to control your impulses regarding food. It is different from normal overeating that almost every person does every once in a while. Binge eating disorder is now recognized as an official diagnosis because it is not only a matter of eating more food than normal. Instead, it is associated with deeper psychiatric issues such as anxiety or depression. People with binge eating disorders often develop additional mental stress and regret due to their abnormal eating habits. They also have an increased risk of other medical conditions such as diabetes or hypertension. It can be treated by proper counseling and therapy measures.
The exact cause of binge eating disorder has not been determined yet. It is thought to be caused by a combination of different factors, including genetics, personal, biological, repetitive or long-term dieting, and psychological factors. Research has shown that people with binge eating disorder have an increased sensitivity to the neurotransmitter dopamine, which gives a feeling of happiness and pleasure. When they eat, dopamine is released, giving them a reward sensation. This cycle can grow over time. It has also been seen to be linked with genetic inheritance.
Women are often more affected by binge eating disorder than men. There is no clear scientific explanation, but it is assumed that biological factors such as differences in hormones can be responsible. Psychological issues such as traumatic life events, constant stress, negative body image, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety can also trigger binge eating disorder. Long-term or crash dieting courses can also trigger and make you eat more than usual.
The risk of having a binge eating disorder is higher if your parents or siblings had or have this condition. This disorder is linked to genetic inheritance, so it can pass on from one generation to another. Also, if you have been dissatisfied with your body image or have been following dieting routines for a long time, it may urge you to eat more than necessary at some point. From there onwards, the cycle only gets worse. Stress, anxiety, depression, and other psychological issues can also increase the risk of developing this disorder.
Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder among adults. It is more predominant in females than males. Although it can occur at any age, it is common during the late teen years and early 20s. Approximately 1200 out of 100,000 people are affected by it.
Those affected by binge eating disorder have poor impulse control regarding eating habits. So if you have this condition, you will find yourself eating large quantities of food in a short period of time, even if you are not hungry. The intervals between meals are shorter and irregular. You may tend to eat food faster without chewing it properly. You may also feel guilty after eating food and feel stressed. This, in turn, triggers more eating, thus continuing the vicious cycle. People with this disorder also eat alone or in secret to prevent embarrassment. Most affected people are obese or have increased weight, although some people may also have normal weight. This condition has worse effects on both physical and psychological heath.
The diagnosis of binge eating disorder is made after obtaining a detailed history of your eating habits followed by a psychological evaluation. Your doctor will ask about binge episodes in the past 3 to 6 months. You get diagnosed with binge eating disorder if you have had at least one binge episode per week for the last three months. The severity can range from mild to severe. Severe binge eating disorder presents with 14 or more binge eating episodes per week. Your doctor may also order additional tests to check the risk of other health conditions. These include blood tests, urinalysis, diabetes tests, and cholesterol levels.
Binge eating disorder should be differentiated from other eating disorders and conditions that may resemble its symptoms. These include bulimia nervosa, compulsive overeating, borderline personality disorder, food addiction, bipolar disorder, depression, and obesity. Binge eating disorder differs from bulimia nervosa because, in this case, you do not attempt to undo binge eating, such as induced vomiting or over-exercising.
The preferred method of treatment for binge eating disorder is psychotherapy and counseling. You are referred to a specialist who will have individual or group sessions to address this issue and its psychological problems. Cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and dialectical therapy can be helpful methods. Because this disorder causes a lot of personal shame, negative body image, and depression, it is important to manage these issues with proper counseling so you can feel motivated to modify your eating habits. Once your psychological health has improved, you may be suggested for specific weight loss programs that ensure not to trigger this disorder again. Support from family, friends, and colleagues during this period can also have a positive effect.
Certain medications targeting your nervous system, such as lisdexamfetamine dimesylate, topiramate, and some antidepressants, may help control symptoms. However, most of these medications have noticeable side effects, so they should only be taken if prescribed by a specialist.
The prognosis of binge disorder varies depending on the intervention time and severity. Some adults may recover well with therapy and other measures, while others may relapse into the same eating habits.
There are no guaranteed ways to prevent binge eating disorder. Stress, anxiety, or other psychological issues are common trigger factors. If you notice unhealthy eating habits associated with these conditions, it is better to get early consultation to avoid severity.
Our clinical experts continually monitor the health and medical content posted on CURA4U, and we update our blogs and articles when new information becomes available. Last reviewed by Dr.Saad Zia on May 12, 2023.