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Binge Eating Disorder (BED): The Most Common Eating Disorder That No One Is Talking About!

By August 29, 2017November 27th, 2018Dr. Beatriz Mann, Nutrition Counseling

Binge Eating Disorder, or BED is a diagnosis that was added to the DSM 5.  While the formal diagnosis is new, the disorder is not.  However, chances are there are a fair number of people (including providers) that might not know the important facts and stats around Binge Eating Disorder.  In fact one of the perhaps most surprising statistics is that BED is more than 3 times more common than anorexia and bulimia combined, making it the most common eating disorder in America!

What makes Binge Eating Disorder different than overeating?

I would imagine that we’ve all been there before.  You ate too much at a meal, or you ate much faster than usual, and you are left feeling uncomfortably full.  It is likely that you “overate” in that moment.  Similarly, a binge episode often involves some aspects of overeating, like feeling uncomfortably full, or perhaps eating more rapidly than normal.

The Most Common Eating Disorder No One is Talking About

However, there are some key differences that make binge eating quite different from overeating.  Binge eating can also include eating large amounts of food when you are not feeling physically hungry.  It can mean eating alone or in secret because you feel embarrassed by how much you are eating. You almost always experience distress around the binge.  Often people with Binge Eating Disorder struggle with feelings of depression, specifically around intense feelings of shame, guilt, or disgust.  In addition, these episodes are usually recurrent, persistent, and most notably outside your control.  Binge Eating Disorder is also unique in that compensatory behavior (like purging, laxative abuse, or excessive exercise) are absent.

It is important to know that like other eating disorders, Binge Eating Disorder is not about the food.  It is about a person’s relationship with food.

Early Signs of Binge Eating Disorder:

30% of people struggling with Binge Eating Disorder have been grappling with it since childhood.  With statistics like that, it is imperative to know what to know for at an early age.

Below are some potential childhood risk factors for developing Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Eating in secret or overeating from ages 0-5
  • Having strict rules around “bad” or “not allowed” foods in your household when you were a child
  • The presence of family perceptions and goals around weight, like maternal body dissatisfaction, the focus of thinness, etc.
  • For girls, having a male friend or a father with Binge Eating Disorder increases Binge Eating Disorder risk.

Research also indicates that people who struggled with Binge Eating Disorder as children are more likely to experience bulimia. They may also experience various forms of emotional disturbances as they become adults. They are also more likely to experience more severe binge eating symptoms.

What can help?

Like other eating disorders, battling Binge Eating Disorder often involves a team approach, incorporating doctors, therapists, and dietitians.  In terms of therapy, both Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have been shown to help reduce Binge Eating Disorder symptoms.  When researching for a therapy or a treatment team, it is important that you find providers that are specialized in the treatment of eating disorders!

Integrated Care Clinic specializes in the treatment of a variety of eating disorders including Binge Eating Disorder, Bulimia Nervosa, Anorexia Nervosa, Orthorexia, and Picky Eating or ARFID. Please call us today to schedule an appointment with a psychologist or dietitian who can help improve your relationship with food and your body!

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Dr. Mann is a licensed psychologist that specializes in healthy coping, college adjustment, anxiety, personal identity, balance, and mindfulness.

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