Binge eating disorder, the most common eating disorder in the United States, is still widely misunderstood and likely to be dismissed as simple overeating. Even with the acceptance of BED into the DSM-V, too many people still believe that binge eating disorder (BED) is a choice that people make. This misunderstanding of the disorder can lead to an expansion of the feelings of guilt and self-disgust its sufferers often experience.
As with many other types of eating disorder that are more understood by the general public, it’s crucial to spread understanding of the symptoms, causes, and effects of BED to avoid the misunderstanding and stigma surrounding it.
What Are the Causes of BED?
Although the exact causes of BED, like virtually every form of behavioral health disorder, are still not completely understood, there is a balance of environmental, genetic, and psychological factors at play. Each person will have a different mix of these factors. Normally, BED is a combination of “nature” and “nurture” factors in a person’s life.
- The “nature” aspects of BED include genetic factors – children of parents with binge eating disorder are more likely to develop it themselves – and biological factors. The latter types of contributing factors include biological sex – women are more likely to develop BED than men – and ethnicity.
- The “nurture” factor is often centered around parenting. It has been observed by therapists at eating disorder treatment centers that parental pressures surrounding weight or beauty can trigger disordered eating behaviors and poor body image in their children. Just as important, pressure from peers or broadcast imagery can cause the individual to engage in extreme dieting, which can trigger binge eating episodes.
Although the causes of BED aren’t completely understood, the consequences are. In addition to the social discomfort and poor self-esteem that many BED sufferers experience, the non-purging nature of the disorder leads to many health complications associated with obesity. This can lead to a cycle of more binge episodes, lower self-esteem, fad diets, and back to the beginning.
Signs and Symptoms
Binge eating disorder is still considered to be just a simple case of “overeating” by far too many people. This is quite unfortunate, as BED is the most common eating disorder in the United States, and it currently affects roughly 2.8 million people. Understanding the signs and symptoms of BED can help you identify it in yourself or a loved one, and start the journey to recovery from this potentially deadly disorder. Here are a few common behaviors and symptoms to look out for:
- Eating large amounts of food in a very short period
- Eating beyond the point of “fullness” during these episodes
- Hiding or hoarding food for these binge eating episodes
- Feelings of guilt or shame following binge eating episodes
- Hiding or strategically throwing away food wrappers
- Visiting several different groceries (to hide the amount of food being purchased)
- Avoiding regular meals
- Avoiding eating in groups at home or restaurants
- Frequent dieting
- Dissatisfaction with one’s body or a sense of perfectionism around it
Why You Should Never Discount BED as Just “Eating Too Much”
With the idea that people with binge eating disorder still floating around, insensitivity to the fact that BED is a disorder and not a choice can make things worse.As we’ve mentioned, BED often stems from poor self-image and results in feelings of guilt following a binge eating episode. Telling someone suffering from BED that they just eat too much, or they should lose some weight can exacerbate these feelings and trigger them to go on another fad diet. If you are struggling with BED you can learn how to change your relationship with food. Help is available, be sure to reach out when you need it.
Often, when dieting, people with bed will avoid meals, making the inevitable binge eating sessions even more extreme.
By understanding and respecting the fact that BED is a disorder and not treating the individual as though they are simply being weak-willed or lazy about their eating patterns, you can help your loved one make the steps they need toward a full recovery and a happier, more mindful life. Consider reaching out to a specialized therapist and engaging in family therapy with your loved one – you can make the difference.