According to NationalEatingDisorders.org, Binge Eating Disorder is the most common type of eating disorder in the United States. In this post, we will highlight Binge Eating Disorder symptoms that your patients are likely experiencing.
Those with Binge Eating Disorder lose control over their consumption of food and, at least once per week for three months, eat an unusually large amount compared to what others might eat in the same timeframe (Table 3 below).
These episodes feature at least three of the following:
- Consuming food faster than normal
- Consuming food until uncomfortably full
- Consuming large amounts of food when not hungry
- Consuming food alone due to embarrassment Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after eating a large amount of food
Below are examples of comments you might hear from individuals with Binge Eating Disorder.
A number of functional consequences are affiliated with Binge Eating Disorder:
- Problems with adapting to social roles
- Quality of life and life satisfaction degradation due to health issues
- Heightened medical mortality and morbidity
- Heightened use of healthcare resources compared to BMI-matched controls
- Potential to gain weight that could lead to obesity
Overall, individuals with Binge Eating Disorder feel significant distress about their binge eating. During a binge, they may enter into a zoned out or dissociated state— not really aware of hunger or fullness, and barely aware of what they are eating or how much. This is actually an altered state of awareness in which there could be an experience of euphoria along with loss of control. In this state, an individual might not, for example, answer a ringing phone or doorbell. One of the powers of binge eating is that it becomes a way to cope with difficult emotions, because once engaged in a binge, the person’s feelings or thoughts that may be distressing actually leave their awareness. Eventually, the altered state fades, and then they typically realize that they ate so much they are in physical pain. This realization is often followed by embarrassment, depression, guilt, shame, and tremendous despair.
A person with Binge Eating Disorder may, throughout the day, experience an increasing sense of tension and a growing preoccupation with planning what food they are going to buy and binge on once they are alone. Additionally, people with Binge Eating Disorder may find it particularly difficult to manage an environment where there is open access to a large amount of food, such as a picnic or a party. Their eating might become dysregulated with the food, they might consume a lot of food, and then feel extremely anxious or uncomfortable about it. On the other hand, they might handle that same situation by not eating at all. Or, they may actually avoid the party or picnic altogether, as the thought of being around food, especially in a social setting, can be overwhelming. This may lead to further isolation, which leaves the individual more prone to falling prey to the eating disorder.
Often, those with Binge Eating Disorder develop a great deal of secrecy around their binge eating— finding strategies for shopping or ordering food only when nobody they know is around to observe them. This is why we cannot assume that if somebody does not eat a lot in public, they are not experiencing Binge Eating Disorder.
The sense of being out of control with binge eating and/ or weight gain often becomes overwhelming and leads to severe mental health consequences. In some cases, a person may become so socially avoidant that they stop engaging in their usual activities. They may not even leave the house for long periods of time. Sometimes individuals with Binge Eating Disorder become suicidal, and we must keep in mind that the condition is associated with other comorbid psychiatric conditions, including depression and anxiety disorder.
For medical professionals, I hope this post has helped you identify Binge Eating Disorder Symptoms that your patients are likely experiencing. For patients, my hope is that this post has helped you recognize some of your symptoms so that you can seek help.
Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt is a world-leading expert on treating eating disorders. With more than 20 years of clinical experience, Wendy has developed a unique treatment approach that delves into the underlying issues that place a person at risk for mental health conditions and eating disorders and lead to healing, health and inner peace. Wendy, Mental Health Speaker, Eating Disorder Educator, and Mental Health Advocate, currently delivers keynote speeches for leading organizations on topics such as eating disorders, treating serious mental health issues, and healthful approaches to weight concerns. Contact Wendy for your next keynote!