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Eating Disorders

Binge-eating Disorder

Binge-eating disorder (BED) is a very common eating disorder in the United States. It was initially proposed as “Night Eating Syndrome”, though it has since ceased from being considered only nocturnal. Although it can lead to obesity, average weighted individuals can also be affected by it. It is a possibility that BED has genetic heritability, but it is often the result of other psychiatric problems in the individual. Women have it on average more than men, and many other factors can contribute to it including frequent comments about ones weight, depression, and low self-esteem.


There are two necessary conditions to qualify as having BED. The first is eating far more food than someone would normally eat in a short period of time, usually 2 hours or less. The second is feeling that the individual has lost control, where no matter what the individual feels they must keep eating and cannot bring themselves to stop. There are several other symptoms that must be present, but not all are necessary to classify as a BED. One of these symptoms is eating much quicker during an eating binge that one does on a normal basis. Another is eating to the point of feeling sick or nauseous from the quantity of food ingested. Binge eaters will often eat when they feel depressed, or even simply bored, which is a telltale sign of BED. Binge eaters will also often eat for the sake of eating when they are not even hungry at all. People who have BED will often feel very guilty about how much they have eaten after the fact. It is usually a common occurrence over a long period of time, at least a few times a week over many months.


Dietary restraint is often a factor that can influence BED. While it may seem tempting to attribute BED to a lack of self-control, dieting can have a very strong effect on it as well. When an individual diets strictly for a period of time and then stops, their body and mind have to adapt. This adaptation may not come easily and BED can be a side effect of this. Psychological factors can also influence BED heavily. Early forms of abuse as a child, whether verbal, sexual, or otherwise, can cause psychological problems leading to BED. Being exposed to constant comments about weight can also be a contributing factor.


It is important to find treatment for BED, whether or not an individual is overweight from it. Many professionals can offer some kind of aid, including physicians, psychologists and even social workers.

It should be noted that because BED is classified as a psychiatric disorder, mental health professionals may be the better option, though physical health practitioners can be considered. There are many ways that BED can be treated. One way is through cognitive-behavioral therapy, which attempts to teach an individual how to recognize their negative habits and foster positive change. Interpersonal psychotherapy is another method that examines an individual’s relationships with others in order to identify possible problem areas that could be fixed. Drug therapy is an option, though it is not always the most ideal method for treating psychiatric disorders. There is still a lot of research being done on BED in order to find the most effective forms of treatment.


BED can have many harmful effects, the most obvious being weight gain. Many of the risks and complications that can arise from BED are a result of the obesity that it can cause. Average-sized individuals can still suffer from BED, however, and there are many risks other than obesity. BED can cause a lack of nutrition due to the nature of the food often ingested during a binge eating episode. Often an episode will consist of many fatty foods, with lots of sugar or salt and lacking in vitamins. This lack of nutrition is a risk for all who have BED, but individuals that happen to also be obese have a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancers and many other health problems. There are possible social ramifications to BED as well, including missing school or work, because of the possible shame or embarrassment that the disorder often brings.


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