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Binge eating disorder is a serious eating disorder in which you frequently consume abnormally large amounts of food without the ability to stop.

When you have a binge eating disorder, you might feel embarrassed, overwhelmed and vow to stop. But you feel a strong compulsion that you just can resist the urge and continue binge eating. If you have a binge eating disorder, we would like to urge you to seek treatment.

It’s normal for everyone to overindulge every now and then, and shouldn’t be confused with binge eating. When binge eating occurs, people don’t feel like they have control of how much food they are consuming or in the frequency that this occurs. Some people also say that they feel completely disconnected from what they are doing, and in most cases of binge eating, people tend to crave the food they would normally avoid.

It typically begins in the stages of late adolescence or early adulthood, often after a major diet. When a session of binge eating occurs, you may eat even when you’re not hungry and continue eating long after you’re full. Whilst binge eating you might not even register what you’re eating or tasting and unlike bulimia, there are no regular attempts to “make up” for the binges through purging.

You may find that binge eating is comforting for a brief moment, helping to ease unpleasant emotions or feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety. But then reality sets back in and you’re flooded with feelings of regret and self-loathing. Binge eating often leads to weight gain and obesity, which only reinforces compulsive eating.

The worse you feel about yourself and your appearance, the more you use food to cope. It becomes a vicious cycle: eating to feel better, feeling even worse, and then turning back to food for relief. As powerless as you may feel about your eating disorder, it’s important to know that binge eating disorder is treatable.

You can learn to break the binge eating cycle, better manage your emotions, develop a healthier relationship with food, and regain control over your eating and your health.

There’s a number of reasons why people resort to binge eating. In most cases its caused to help ease unpleasant emotions or feelings of depression, anxiety or stress. Have you ever noticed how your mood influences the type of food you consume? When you feel a certain way, you reach for food types that you wouldn’t normally eat.

We constantly see it in all of our favourite movies. When the character is sad, what’s the first thing they grab out of the fridge? Of course, it’s a tub of ice cream! Emotional eating has become as mainstream as Social media and sometimes we seem to feed our emotions rather than our bodies. Many human behaviours are controlled by our subconscious emotions and the food we eat is an important example of this.

Your relationship with food and what you choose to put into your body is determined by psychological and physiological factors. Everyone knows that food is the fuel our bodies need to survive, but there’s some foods that are only eaten in very specific circumstances. Coffee is a great example – How many people feel that they cannot function unless they’ve had a cup of coffee, first thing in the morning? While coffee isn’t strictly a form of food, you still get the picture.

The link between food and mood has been established by hundreds of scientific studies. Many showing that anxiety, or depression, lethargy, irritability and cravings can, and do, result from a poor or imbalanced diet. The relationship we have with food is complicated at best, but it’s key to understand both our emotions and mental states.

It’s quite enlightening to see the relationship we have with food and the eating habits that come with it. The goal is to be more mindful about the food we eat and question the purpose of consumption – Why do I want this? What will I get out of this? What need will it fulfil for me?

Now that you know where the relationship between emotions and food lies, let’s look at some of the symptoms of binge eating.

Symptoms of Binge Eating

Most people with binge-eating disorder are overweight or obese, but you may be at a normal weight.

Behavioural and emotional signs and symptoms of binge-eating disorder include:

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, such as over a two-hour period
  • The feeling that your eating behaviour is out of control
  • Eating even when you're full or not hungry
  • Eating rapidly during binge episodes
  • Eating until you're uncomfortably full
  • Frequently eating alone or in secret
  • Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss

Emotional Symptoms

For people struggling with a binge eating disorder, restricting food intake may lead to even more food that gets consumed and creates a vicious cycle that gets more and more difficult to quite.

These emotional symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Lack of self-control
  • Self-loathing
  • Shame
  • Self-hatred about body image and eating behaviours

The symptoms and effects of binge eating disorder are often more extreme in the case of women also suffering with co-occurring disorders, for example, depression or substance abuse. Co-occurring disorders can make it even harder to understand and respond to emotions, and trigger more frequent and more severe binges.

Side effects of Binge Eating Disorder

There are many physical and emotional consequences associated with bingeing.

We discussed the emotional complications attached to it, so let us look at some of the physical side effects of binge eating below:

  • Physical discomfort
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigued
  • Cardio vascular problems
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Adult onset diabetes

Even at normal weight, a person with a binge eating disorder can suffer many health consequences. There is a tremendous weight stigma surrounding this disease, whereby a person struggling with binge eating may not want to seek help because of the feeling that they are not “sick enough” for medical treatment. In cases like this it becomes the responsibility of family members to positively encourage their loved one to seek medical help.

Your relationships, career, finances and social life will also be impacted by binge eating. Individuals struggling with this disorder may find it very difficult to function in normal day to day activities due to the severity of the illness. Binge eating stereotypes can often cause an individual to unnecessarily suffer in silence for long periods of time before they seek help.

Remember the old adage, prevention is always better than cure, and this has never been more relevant in the case of binge eating disorders.


How to talk to your Doctor

If you have a history of binge eating, it’s important to talk to your doctor so that they can help you monitor long-term health risks. Physicians can help you evaluate whether you’re at risk for osteoporosis, diabetes, high cholesterol, or other conditions. Because relapse is common amongst people suffering from binge eating, the more informed people you have on your medical team, the better your long-term health and recovery will be.

If you're experiencing any of the problems listed above, or if you think you may have an eating disorder, we want to encourage you to seek professional help. If you're hiding your binge eating from loved ones, try to find a person you trust and talk to them about what's going on.

At ZwavelStream Clinic we strive to provide our patients with a mixed therapeutic model of psychiatric care so that our patients can discover a renewed sense of wellness that extends beyond mental health. Our mental health clinic was inspired by the desire to provide a psychiatric unit in an environment that “de-institutionalizes and de-stigmatizes” mental health hospitals.

There’s no shame in seeking treatment for eating disorders. In fact, it’s an act of great courage to take that first step and reach out. At ZwavelStream Clinic we provide a safe space for those looking for just this kind of support and guidance. So if you recognize yourself or someone you love may need help, please contact us.

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