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Binge Eating
Eating Disorders >> Binge Eating

BINGE EATING WHAT IS BINGE EATING?
Binge eating is characterized by compulsive overeating in which people consume huge amounts of food while feeling out of control and powerless to stop.

A binge eating episode typically lasts around two hours, but some people binge on and off all day long. Binge eaters often eat even when they’re not hungry and continue eating long after they’re full. They may also gorge themselves as fast as they can while barely registering what they’re eating or tasting.

The key features of binge eating are:
  • Frequent episodes of uncontrollable binge eating
  • Feeling extremely distressed or upset during or after bingeing
  • No regular attempts to “make up” for the binges through vomiting, fasting, or over-exercising.
People who binge eat struggle with feelings of guilt, disgust, and depression. They worry about what the compulsive eating will do to their bodies and beat themselves up for their lack of self-control. They desperately want to stop binge eating, but they feel like they can’t.

DO I NEED HELP FOR BINGE EATING?
Ask yourself the following questions. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you might be a binge eater.
  • Do you feel out of control when you’re eating?
  • Do you think about food all the time?
  • Do you eat in secret?
  • Do you eat until you feel sick?
  • Do you eat to escape from worries or to comfort yourself?
  • Do you feel disgusted or ashamed after eating?
  • Do you feel powerless to stop eating, even though you want to?

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF BINGE EATING
People who binge eat are embarrassed and ashamed of their eating habits, so they often try to hide their symptoms and eat in secret. Many binge eaters are overweight or obese, but some are of normal weight.

Behavioral symptoms of binge eating and compulsive overeating
  • Inability to stop eating or control what you’re eating
  • Rapidly eating large amounts of food
  • Eating even when you’re full
  • Hiding or stockpiling food to eat later in secret
  • Eating normally around others, but gorging when you’re alone
  • Eating continuously throughout the day, with no planned mealtimes
Emotional symptoms of binge eating and compulsive overeating
  • Feeling tension that is only relieved by eating
  • Embarrassment over how much you’re eating
  • Feeling numb while bingeing—like you’re not really there or you’re on auto-pilot.
  • Never feeling satisfied, no matter how much you eat
  • Feeling guilty, disgusted, or depressed after overeating
  • Desperation to control weight and eating habits
The difference between binge eating and bulimia
Binge eating is similar to bulimia in that both involve consuming massive amounts of food in a short time period. But unlike bulimics, binge eaters DO NOT regularly try to purge or work off the extra calories consumed. People who binge eat may occasionally try to fast or restrict calories, but many have given up all dieting efforts due to a long history of repeated failure.

CAUSES OF BINGE EATING AND COMPULSIVE OVEREATING
Most experts believe that it takes a combination of things to develop an eating disorder — including a person's genes, emotions, and experience.

Biological causes of binge eating
Studies show that biological abnormalities contribute to binge eating. For example, the hypothalamus (the part of the brain that controls appetite) may not be sending correct messages about hunger and fullness. Researchers have also found a genetic mutation that appears to cause food addiction. Finally, there is evidence that low levels of the brain chemical serotonin play a role in compulsive eating.

Psychological causes of binge eating
Depression and binge eating are strongly linked. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, up to half of all binge eaters are either depressed or have been before. There is further evidence that low self-esteem, loneliness, and body dissatisfaction are involved in compulsive overeating. People who binge eat may also have trouble with impulse control and managing and expressing their feelings.

Social and cultural causes of binge eating
Social pressure to be thin can add to the shame binge eaters feel and fuel their emotional eating. The way one is raised can also increase the risk for binge eating. Some parents unwittingly set the stage for bingeing by using food to comfort, dismiss, or reward their children. Children who are exposed to frequent critical comments about their bodies and weight are also vulnerable. Another factor which has been linked to binge eating is sexual abuse in childhood.

EFFECTS OF BINGE EATING
Binge eating leads to a wide variety of physical, emotional, and social problems. People who binge eat report more health issues, stress, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts than people without an eating disorder. Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are common side effects as well. Binge eating also interferes with a person’s relationships and career. For example, you may skip work, school, or social activities in order to binge eat. But the most prominent effect of binge eating is weight gain.

Adapted from an article contributed to by Melinda Smith, M.A., Suzanne Barston, Robert Segal, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last modified on 3/5/08.

Reprinted with permission from http://www.helpguide.org/. C 2008 Helpguide.org. All rights reserved.

You can find the original article at
http://www.helpguide.org/mental/binge_eating_disorder.htm

SOURCE: www.helpguide.org

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