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What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Updated: Jun 4, 2023

February 1, 2023



Eating disorders can affect up to 9% of the United States (US) population with Binge Eating Disorders contributing to a majority (47%) of those with an eating disorder. (1-2) Binge eating disorder can be a serious problem where you may eat out of control, eat more than you intended to eat, or feel so full you are uncomfortable afterwards. Binge eating does not mean you throw up your food (bulimia), restrict your food (anorexia), or excessively exercise.


These binge eating episodes must occur at least weekly for three months to meet criteria for binge eating disorder. (3) Unfortunately, binge eating can affect how you feel about yourself, cause embarrassment/shame feelings, and can make you feel depressed due to lack of control you experience with binging.


It is important to note that the symptoms of this disorder will improve and worsen over time. This is often directly correlated to stress levels and other life situations. Some may look to relieve their symptoms by indulging in binge eating episodes. Others may relieve symptoms by indulging in alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs. People with binge eating often know that they have a problem but have difficulty stopping on their own. Left untreated, binge eating can interfere with other aspects of your life.




Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder


Binge eating episodes can take place in a variety of settings and situations. It is important to note that binge eating episodes do not necessarily constitute binge eating disorder. Repeated episodes of excessive eating over a period of time is what separates binge eating from binge eating disorder. To meet criteria as bing eating disorder, you must have at least 3 of the following symptoms while eating:

  • Eating faster than normal

  • Being so full you are uncomfortable

  • Eating when not hungry

  • Secretive eating

  • Feelings of shame or depression after an episode

Additionally, these episodes must occur at least weekly and last for at least three months.


Binge Eating as a Compulsion


Compulsions are defined as behaviors you indulge in to provide temporary relief of the unwanted thoughts you are having. There are several kinds of compulsions. Binge eating is one type of compulsion because you may not want to excessively eat but feel out of control to stop yourself.


How is Binge Eating Disorder Diagnosed?


The diagnosis of binge eating disorder is typically diagnosed by a healthcare provider with knowledge of mental health disorders. There is no specific test or imaging that can diagnose the disorder. The symptoms of binge eating must meet specific criteria as outlined above and cannot be better explained with another mental health condition (such as bulimia, anorexia, etc). Drugs, alcohol, and other medical conditions may impact symptoms and must also be ruled out as a cause for proper diagnosis of this disorder.





Treatment Options for Binge Eating Disorder


Treatment for binge eating disorder symptoms typically involves medications, education, and development of skills to help with the compulsive eating. Providers often involved in the treatment of binge eating disorder are family medicine providers and mental health providers such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, dieticians, and mental health therapists. Treatment can generally be obtained in one of three ways. The first modality and first line of treatment for binge eating disorders is psychotherapy or seeing a mental health therapist/counselor. The second modality in treating binge eating is with medication management. The third and generally favored treatment approach to binge eating disorders is with a combination of medication management, dietician, and counseling therapies. It is important to note that there are many ways to treat binge eating disorder. Because of this, it is important to work with a trusted healthcare provider to choose a treatment plan that best fits your life and goals.


Mental Health Therapy/Counseling Treatment


Therapy options for binge eating disorders include treatment such as talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and support groups. Counseling therapy can help improve binge eating symptoms by helping you develop skills to more effectively deal with the thoughts and feelings you are having that lead to binging episodes.


Medication Management Treatment


Medications used to treat binge eating disorder will often relieve symptoms that lead to the compulsive eating. Common medications used to treat binge eating disorders include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), sibutramine, vyvanse, and topiramate. (4) SSRIs are by far the most researched medicine for treatment of binge eating disorder.




Integrated Treatment


An often used and generally favored approach to the treatment of Binge Eating Disorder is counseling therapy, dietician input, and medication management together. Each separate treatment modality may lead an individual on the path to overcoming binge eating, but an integrated approach of both medication, nutrition advice, and counseling may help you reach your goals quicker. The best way to decide on a treatment approach is to discuss concerns with a trusted provider.


Treatment For long-term Success


At Pine Ridge Mental Healthcare, we’ve found success using a variety of approaches to binge eating disorder management. Getting your eating under control is a key step in managing your life.


Our team works to reduce your reliance on medications by educating you about the different tools available and how life situations can affect your mood. And we help keep you on track with regular check-ins to monitor your health.


For more information about if you may have an eating disorder or for help managing your mental health, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at Pine Ridge Mental Healthcare in Owasso, Oklahoma. If you are interested in other services we provide, check out our services page.


References


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