Known as one of the life-threatening eating disorders, binge eating is a psychological condition that impacts people from all social classes and ages. Binge eating or also called compulsive eating is totally different from anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and other eating disorders. This one is characterized by the lack of self-control to limit the food volume and intake. Patients who are suffering from this condition are observed to be recurrently eating great quantity of food. They do so to the point that they are experiencing discomfort. Unlike bulimia nervosa wherein patients purge, measures such as forced vomiting or excessive exercising are not taken by compulsive eaters to avoid severe and rapid weight gain.
The cases of people with the compulsive eating disorder are continuously growing in the U.S. Aside from the life risks, immediate management of this psychological condition is important to avoid patients from having money troubles in the future. This is because binge eating is not covered by many insurance companies across the country. It is important to know more about this disorder to better support those who are having challenges overcoming compulsive eating. Here are some important facts on this behavior.
Diagnosing Patients With Binge Eating Syndrome
Evaluating one’s body mass index and weight gain frequency is among the first steps taken by doctors and medical experts. This is so they can assess the risk of a patient having this psychological disorder. To strengthen their findings, experts will also observe the eating pattern and the level of self-control of the patient. An extensive interview is also conducted to examine the possible cause of the behavior.
Signs and Symptoms of Compulsive Eating
To confirm that a patient is indeed struggling with this eating disorder, it is important that he or she exhibits at least three symptoms. They could be eating at a rapidly faster rate than other people. It could be that the person continuously eats despite feeling any discomforts. It could also be having the desire to eat great volume of food even though they are already full. Other symptoms that can be observed with the patient are depression, distress, having a guilty feeling after a meal as well as the occurrence of compulsive eating once weekly for three straight months.
For those who are suspecting a close friend or family member to be suffering from this condition, here are the other evidences and signs that they need to watch out. These include the disappearance of large food volume in a short span of time. This can be proven by the presence of lots of empty containers or plastic food wrappers.
Other alarming compulsive eating symptoms are extreme body shape and weight concern, unique food rituals and exhibiting fast weight fluctuations. Patients can also experience constipation, stomach cramps, acid reflux, and other gastrointestinal pains.
Causes of Binge Eating
People often blame genes for this psychological condition. However, researchers point to environmental and psychological factors to be the main culprits of this eating disorder. Many studies indicated that compulsive eaters also suffer from other mental health conditions such as severe depression and anxiety. It can also be triggered or stimulated by negative emotions like anger, boredom, and sadness. However, let us not forget that biological factors such as hormonal imbalance can also kick-start a patient’s binge eating behavior.
Available Treatments for Compulsive Eaters
Early treatment for binge eating is essential to increase the patient’s recovery chances or odds. Medical professionals often start their treatment plan with the development of a self-help program for the patient. This could be initiated by recommending books that inspire patients to monitor their eating patterns and to reduce food intake.
Clinical experts will also develop a realistic meal plan to regulate the eating behavior. They will aim to prevent the patient from experiencing hunger as this will also trigger binge eating in many people. There are also support groups that will be recommended to assist the patient during recovery.
If the self-help program does not work for the patient, one will be advised to undergo a cognitive behavioral therapy as it will have a closer look at the real cause of the problem. This program is composed of sessions that will tackle and manage the negative emotions or traumas which will then lead to the treatment of the disorder.
Alternative Treatments for Binge Eating
What if the self-help program and the cognitive behavioral therapy are still ineffective to save the patient from binge eating? If this scenario happens, then the best thing that the medical professional can do is to prescribe the patient with antidepressants. However, these should go hand in hand with the counseling sessions with a psychiatrist. These medications are to be recommended mostly for patients aged 18 and above. They are aimed at also addressing the comorbid conditions of compulsive eating which are social phobia, anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsiveness.
Prominence of the Eating Disorder in the U.S.
Research found compulsive eating to be the most prominent eating disorder in the country. Around 2.8 million are diagnosed with binge eating behavior. One of the interesting statistics uncovered in this study was that the combined population of anorexic and bulimic patients is three times less than the number of people who have BED.
Medical professionals and clinical experts also confirm that patients with schizophrenia, breast cancer, and HIV have a higher risk of exhibiting compulsive eating behavior than the others. As for its prominence in women and men, research found that 2 percent of BED patients are men while 3.5 percent are women.
Parents are also encouraged to closely monitor the eating patterns of their children as the psychological condition also affect 1.6 percent of all American adolescents. Although binge eating is widely seen in women, it is better for everyone to be cautious of their eating patterns. It is recommended to maintain an active lifestyle since this is observed in all races, income levels and age groups.