Binge Eating Disorder, commonly known as BED, compulsive overeating, emotional eating, or food addiction, is the most common eating disorder in the United States and is prevalent in up to 30% of those seeking weight loss treatment. Binge eating disorder affects women more often than men with estimates indicating about 60% of people struggling with binge eating disorder are female, 40% are males (NEDA, 2012). Of those with binge eating disorder, it is estimated that 40%-60% are morbidly obese, 20-50% are obese, and up to 40% are normal weight.
Characteristics of Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes an eating disorder characterized by frequent uncontrollable urges to eat an unusually large amount of food in a short period of time. Individuals may not start out hungry or could be full when a binging episode occurs. They would like to stop the episode, but the sensation to consume food is out of their control. The loss of control for food leaves individuals feeling guilty and depressed, thus driving the individual to eat in secret. The binge eater does not use compensatory behaviors (e.g. vomit, use laxatives, or overtly exercise) after a binge.
The ‘binging episode’ is a coping strategy to shut down difficult emotions such as anxiety, fear, or anger that may be associated with body dissatisfaction, relationship issues, work related stressor and more. Individuals who binge eating may physically appear obese or morbidly obese. However, up to 40% of binge eaters are normal weight.
Diagnosis of this complex illness is made by a mental health professional, usually after identifying symptoms and behaviors that characterize the illness. There are other medical illnesses that can cause symptoms that are similar to those seen in Binge Eating Disorder, so an individual should have a complete medical evaluation to rule out other illnesses.
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