Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder is a type of eating disorder that entails recurring episodes of eating considerably more food in a short period than most people would eat under similar circumstances. People with binge eating disorder lose control over their eating and, as such, are characterized by episodes of feeling that they have lost control. People with the disorder may also have feelings of embarrassment, guilt, or disgust and, therefore, may prefer binge eating alone to hide the behavior (American Psychiatric Association, 2015).
Binge Eating Disorder Signs and Symptoms
- Eating unusually large amounts of food in short periods, such as a two-hour period.
- Eating considerably fast during the binge episodes.
- Eating even when one is full or not hungry.
- Eating until one is uncomfortably full.
- Eating in secret or alone to avoid embarrassment.
- Frequently dieting but not achieving significant weight loss.
- Feeling ashamed, guilty, or distressed with oneself about the eating habit. (Hilbert, 2019).
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According to Hilbert (2019), the causes of binge eating disorder are not well known but are likely to be a variety of factors including:
Gender. Binge eating is more common in women than men. According to Hilbert (2019), in the US, about 3.6 percent of women experience binge eating at some point in their lives. Comparably, only approximately 2 percent of men experience binge eating at some point in their lives. Hilbert asserts that this may be due to some underlying biological factors.
Genetics. People with binge eating disorder have increased sensitivity to dopamine. Additionally, there is strong evidence pointing out that the disorder is inheritable (Hilbert, 2019).
Changes in the Brain. Studies have indicated that people with binge eating disorder may have experienced certain changes in their brain structure. The alterations result in a heightened response to food and decreased self-control (Hilbert, 2019).
Emotional Trauma. Hilbert (2019) elucidates that stressful life events such as separation from a family member, abuse, death, childhood bullying, et cetera can be risk factors.
Other Psychological Conditions. According to Hilbert (2019), approximately 80 percent of individuals with binge eating disorder have at least one other psychological disorder such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic disorder, or phobias.
Binge Eating Disorder Treatments
Psychotherapy can help teach a patient diagnosed with binge eating disorder how to replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones hence reducing episodes of binge eating. There are three main types of psychotherapy used to treat binge eating. They include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy (McElroy et al., 2015).
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) involves efforts geared toward changing thinking patterns. CBT can help an individual diagnosed with binge eating better cope with risk factors that can trigger episodes of binge eating. It may also give the patient a better sense of control over their behavior consequently helping them regulate their eating patterns (McElroy et al., 2015).
Interpersonal therapy focuses on the patient’s relationships with other people. The objective of interpersonal therapy is to improve the patient’s interpersonal skills. This can help the patient reduce binge eating triggered by poor socialization skills (McElroy et al., 2015). For instance, binge eating episodes caused by boredom.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy seeks to help one learn behavioral skills that can help tolerate stress and effectively regulate emotions to improve relationships with others. The ability to tolerate stress and regulate emotions can help a patient reduce the desire to binge eat (McElroy et al., 2015). Thus, it aims to treat binge eating triggered by psychological conditions.
The most used medication for treating binge eating disorder is Lisdexamfetamine Dimesylate (Vyvanse). This is the first FDA-approved drug for treating moderate to severe binge eating disorder. Other types of medication that can help reduce the symptoms of binge eating disorder include Topiramate (Topamax) and antidepressants. Notably, while these drugs can help treat binge eating, they may not have a significant impact on weight reduction (McElroy et al., 2015).
Behavioral Weight Loss Programs
These programs train individuals how to change their eating and exercise patterns. Notably, many individuals diagnosed with binge-eating disorder have a history of failed attempts to lose weight. Weight loss programs are done under medical supervision to make sure that the patient’s nutritional requirements are met (McElroy et al., 2015). According to McElroy et al., weight loss programs are generally more effective in treating binge-eating disorder when the patient is also receiving cognitive behavior therapy. However, it is worth noting that weight loss programs are generally not recommended until the patient has received treatment; this is because dieting can cause the patient to engage in more binge eating hence proving counterproductive.