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What is Binge Eating?

The essential features of binge-eating disorder are recurrent, out-of-control episodes of consuming abnormally large amounts of food. If you suffer from this disorder you eat whether you are hungry or not and consume food well past being uncomfortably full.

Binge-eaters are usually extremely distressed by their eating behavior and experience feelings of disgust and guilt both during and after bingeing. Most feel ashamed and try to hide their problem. Many are so good at concealing their binge-eating habits from others that even close family members or friends are unaware they suffer from an eating disorder.

If left untreated, the consequences of binge-eating can be severe. The disorder often leads to obesity, which is responsible for as many as 300,000 deaths year, or other serious and often life-threatening eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. Those who suffer from binge-eating disorder are also at high risk of substance-related disorders and serious psychiatric conditions, including depression, panic disorders, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders.

Symptoms

Nearly everyone, from time to time, eats more than they should. For the person with binge-eating disorder, their bouts of over-eating are recurrent-at least 2 days a week for a period of at least 6 months--and feature most, if not all, of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent episodes of eating abnormally large amounts of food. ;
  • Significantly impaired control over how what and how much is being eaten. ;
  • Eating large amounts of food even when not physically hungry. ;
  • Eating much more rapidly than is normal. ;
  • Eating until uncomfortably full. ;
  • Eating alone because of embarrassment at the quantity of food being consumed. ;
  • Dissociative qualities to the binge episodes, e.g., feeling "numb" or "spaced out." ;
  • Feelings of self-disgust, depression, or guilt during and after the binge episodes. ;
  • There may be a higher lifetime prevalence of depression, substance-related disorders, or personality disorders.

Causes

The causes of binge-eating disorder are as yet unknown. It is known that nearly 50% of all people who suffer from binge-eating disorder have a history of depression, however, whether depression is the cause or the result of the eating disorder is still unclear. Impulsive behavior and other psychological problems are also very common in people with binge-eating disorder.

People with binge-eating disorder typically have varying degrees of obesity. Most have a history of repeated, failed efforts to diet and feel desperate about their inability to control their food intake. Dieting's effect on binge-eating--if any-is unclear.

Current research is focusing on the effect brain chemicals and metabolism have on binge-eating disorder.

Treatment

The first course of action should be to seek help from a physician to diagnose and treat any physical problems. To treat the symptoms of binge-eating, people often benefit significantly from therapy. There are therapists who are especially experienced at helping people who have eating disorders. Therapy provides a safe, comforting, and confidential setting in which to receive the kind of help that can best determine and treat any underlying emotional and psychological causes for the eating disorder, as well as address the effect it has had on their sense of self , their relationships with others, and their capacity to function optimally in everyday life.

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