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Why Does Binge Eating Disorder Occur

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Binge Eating Disorder – What is it?

How can you know if your concern about your diet and your bodys shape is veering toward or may already be an eating disorder? You cant just look in a mirror. Despite what many people think, you dont have to be female or skinny or fat to have an eating disorder. You dont even have to look as though anything is wrong.

Weight can be an indicator of an eating disorder, but it certainly isnt the only one, says Ilene Fishman, a licensed clinical social worker in New York City and Montclair, New Jersey, who spent a decade during her adolescence battling and eventually recovering from her own severe anorexia.

Biological Psychiatry: A Journal of Psychiatric Neuroscience and Therapeutics

  • Anorexia This disorder is marked by extreme control over calorie intake, an intense fear of gaining weight, and often an unrealistic view of body size and shape.
  • Bulimia Also known as binge-purge syndrome, bulimia is marked by frequent, rapid overeating followed by purging to avoid gaining weight. Purging may include forced vomiting, obsessive exercising, and misuse of laxatives and diuretics.
  • Binge-Eating Disorder This disorder is marked by frequent out-of-control eating in a short amount of time, often until the person feels uncomfortably full. Binge-eating disorder often occurs in secret because of self-disgust and embarrassment. People with this condition dont purge.

How To Overcome Binging

The first step in overcoming binge eating is speaking to a medical professional. This person can help with a diagnosis, determine the severity of the disorder, and recommend the most appropriate treatment.

In general, the most effective treatment is CBT, but a range of treatments exists. Depending on individual circumstances, just one therapy or a combination may work best.

No matter which treatment strategy is used, it is important to also make healthy lifestyle and diet choices when possible.

Here are some additional helpful strategies:

  • Keep a food and mood diary. Identifying personal triggers is an important step in learning how to control binge impulses.
  • Practice mindfulness. This can help increase awareness of binging triggers while helping increase self-control and maintaining self-acceptance (

Environmental Causes Of Binge Eating Disorder

An individual whose self-worth is easily dictated by external influences can be at increased risk of developing binge eating disorder. This can include individuals who are the subject of frequent negative comments, bullying or body shaming, as well as body image concerns or low confidence largely driven by images on television or social media. Many times, individuals feel worthless as they are confronted with societys focus on thinness and unrealistic ideals of beauty.

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Alcohol And Binge Eating

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder among adults in America. People living with BED often overeat in an attempt to escape negative emotions or feelings. This unhealthy coping mechanism can result in feelings of shame, guilt and self-loathing.

One cause of both binge eating and drinking can release dopamine. Dopamine produces feelings of pleasure, happiness and reward in the brain. Someone may initially be lacking dopamine or be experiencing anxiety and stress and looking for a way to cope.

Another cause of binge eating and drinking is associated with undiagnosed psychological disorders. For example, someone living with depression typically experiences similar symptoms of BED, such as feelings of low self-esteem, worthlessness and decreased impulse control. Its a cyclical pattern of behavior because after binge drinking, someones inhibitions are lowered and they may feel less ashamed about eating in excess.

Researchers also attribute binge eating and drinking to societal pressures. The desire to fit in may cause the development of BED to achieve societys standard of a perfect body and people may feel pressured to binge drink to be able to interact in social situations.

Causes Of Binge Eating

Eating Disorders: Why Anyone Can Suffer And How To Get Help

The exact causes of binge eating disorder are not known, but you are more likely to have an eating disorder if:

  • you or a member of your family has a history of eating disorders, depression, or alcohol or drug misuse
  • you’ve been criticised for your eating habits, body shape or weight
  • you’re too worried about being slim, particularly if you also feel pressure from society or your job, for example, ballet dancers, models or athletes
  • you have anxiety, low self-esteem, an obsessive personality or are a perfectionist
  • you’ve been sexually abused

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What Health Conditions Are Associated With Binge

Depression is frequently associated with binge-eating disorder. Its also common for binge eaters to become clinically obese, which can increase the risk for developing medical conditions or exacerbate existing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gallbladder disease, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

Tips To Avoid Binge Eating

To finish, we review some guidelines to avoid eating for the sake of eating, compulsively and without control. Take note!

  • Think about whether you are using food to fill a void. Binge eating is a consequence of worry, stress, and anxiety in most cases.
  • Analyze your eating habits. Be aware of what, when and how you eat.
  • Are you really hungry? Ask yourself that question before you go to the fridge for something. Think if it really is real or emotional hunger.
  • Try to eat slowly, without rushing and enjoying each flavor.
  • If you have trouble controlling your urges with food, try distracting yourself with other activities. Go for a walk, tidy up the house, or make plans with your family and friends. The key is to keep your mind busy.
  • How to avoid binge eating? Establish your meal times and take five intakes a day: breakfast, lunch, lunch, snack and dinner.

Obviously, in the event that the person has a Binge Eating Disorder, it is essential that they undergo specific treatment planned by professional nutritionists-dieticians and psychologists.

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How Are Eating Disorders Diagnosed

Health care providers and mental health professionals diagnose eating disorders based on history, symptoms, thought patterns, eating behaviors, and an exam.

The doctor will check weight and height and compare these to previous measurements on growth charts. The doctor may order tests to see if there is another reason for the eating problems and to check for problems caused by the eating disorder.

What Causes Binge Eating Disorder

5 Things People Get Wrong About Binge Eating Disorder

Like other eating disorders, binge eating disorder results from a mix of factors related to your genes, your thoughts and feelingsparticularly about your weight and shapeas well as cultural and social issues and your environment. Binge eating disorder also has been linked to depression and anxiety.

For some people, dieting in unhealthy wayssuch as skipping meals, not eating enough food, or avoiding certain kinds of foodmay contribute to binge eating.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Eating Disorders

  • Being consumed by thoughts of food, weight, fat, or calories
  • Avoiding once favorite foods
  • Preferring to eat alone instead of with others so that no one can judge how little or how much is being eaten
  • Exercising excessively for example, planning the day around working out, setting unrealistic goals or ignoring signs of injury or fatigue
  • Finding more and more fault with ones body, or seeing it as looking very different from how other people say it does
  • Paying increased attention to other peoples bodies
  • Regularly using appetite suppressants, laxatives, diuretics, or enemas

Boys And Girls Experience Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are more likely to affect females than males. However, about 25 per cent of cases in adolescents occur with males. Girls and boys can experience different social pressures about how they should look. Primary school-aged children are not immune to these pressures, and their attitudes and behaviours reflect adult concerns.Like many adult females, some girls want to lose weight and be thin. Like many adult males, some boys want to lose body fat, but increase muscle mass. Some boys try to meet unrealistically thin ideal standards.

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How Is It Diagnosed

You often wont know a person has an eating disorder by looking at them. And it can be difficult to tell if someone has binge eating disorder because they may hide their behavior due to shame or embarrassment.

To receive a diagnosis, a mental health or healthcare professional will often start by asking about your symptoms, how often you have them, and your medical history.

If you start with your primary doctor, they may refer you to a mental health professional or someone that specializes in eating disorders.

A doctor may also order blood, urine, or other screening tests to check for health conditions that can be caused by binge eating disorder.

According to the DSM-5, you must have at least 3 symptoms of binge eating disorder for a diagnosis to occur. These symptoms should typically be present at least once a week for 3 months.

Physical Signs Of Binge Eating Disorder

Why Do Eating Disorders Happen?

BED can be difficult to identify, as the resultant shame and guilt of binge episodes lead to secrecy. If you observe some of the below symptoms in a loved one or patient, consider them to be red flags and do not be afraid to ask more questions.

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time.
  • Eating when one is not hungry or full.
  • Eating at a fast pace.
  • Eating alone or in secret.
  • Hiding food.
  • Reported feelings of low self-worth.

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So What Causes An Eating Disorder

  • The shame of having an eating problem
  • The eating disorder is useful- this is a big issue for most people with an active eating problem. Purging can become a way to manage moods or to get through the day.
  • Perhaps I dont deserve to get help / I should be able to crack this on my own.
  • I am not ill enough or, there are people much more worse off than me.

Tips To Help Control Binges

If you think you have binge eating disorder, work with a doctor to get well. Treatment might include counseling and, sometimes, medicine.

Try these tips to avoid food binges:

  • Keep a food diary. It will help you learn when you tend to binge. You can also see what was going on in your life that may have led you to do it.
  • Eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day. They’ll keep your blood sugar steady, so you won’t feel hungry enough to binge.
  • Portion out your food. Don’t just grab a big bag of chips and head to the couch to watch TV. Measure out one serving into a small bag or onto a plate. You’ll be less likely to eat too much if you have to get up for more.
  • Think about why you’re bingeing. Are you depressed or anxious? Find another way to soothe these emotions.

Show Sources

Kelly Allison, PhD, associate professor of psychology at the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

American Psychiatric Association: âEating Disorders.â

Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. “Binge Eating Disorder.”

Harvard School of Public Health: “How to Avoid Overeating.”

Helder, SG. Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences, 2011.

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders: “Binge Eating Disorder.”

National Eating Disorders Association: “Binge Eating Disorder,” “Types & Symptoms of Eating Disorders.”

National Health Service: “Binge Eating – Causes,” “Binge eating – treatment.”

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Negative Urgency And Expectancies: Expectancies As A Cognitive Representation Of Prepotent Response

In addition to binge eating, NU is associated with substance abuse, aggression, and self-injury . Individual differences in the tendency to act rashly during distress are obviously relevant for a wide range of psychopathology. How do individuals with high levels of NU develop ED symptoms as opposed to another form of pathological behavior? We propose that outcome expectancy formation influences trajectories of psychopathology in conjunction with NU.

Outcome expectancies may be defined as if-then statements about behavior. They are learned through exposure to parents, siblings, peers, and media . An example of an expectancy for eating is Eating is a good way to or If I drink alcohol, I will be more sociable at the party. Expectancies may be learned even prior to initiation in the behavior. For example, youth who have never consumed alcohol already possess positive and negative expectancies for alcohol consumption . Positive expectancies for a behavior predict increases in that behavior over time, and increases in behavior over time in turn strengthens endorsement of the outcome expectancy .

The Importance Of Deciding Not To Diet

Extreme Hunger vs. Binge Eating Disorder? / Eating Disorder Recovery

After a binge, its only natural to feel the need to diet to compensate for overeating and to get back on track with your health. But dieting usually backfires. The deprivation and hunger that comes with strict dieting triggers food cravings and the urge to overeat.

Instead of dieting, focus on eating in moderation. Find nutritious foods that you enjoy and eat only until you feel content, not uncomfortably stuffed. Avoid banning or restricting certain foods, as this can make you crave them even more. Instead of saying I can never eat ice cream, say I will eat ice cream as an occasional treat.

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Tips For Helping Someone With Binge Eating Disorder

Encourage your loved one to seek help. The longer an eating disorder remains undiagnosed and untreated, the more difficult it will be to overcome, so urge your loved one to get treatment.

Be supportive. Try to listen without judgment and make sure the person knows you care. If your loved one slips up on the road to recovery, remind them that it doesnt mean they cant quit binge eating for good.

Avoid insults, lectures, or guilt trips. Binge eaters feel bad enough about themselves and their behavior already. Lecturing, getting upset, or issuing ultimatums to a binge eater will only increase stress and make the situation worse. Instead, make it clear that you care about the persons health and happiness and youll continue to be there.

Set a good example by eating healthily, exercising, and managing stress without food. Dont make negative comments about your own body or anyone elses.

Get more help

Binge Eating Disorder Symptoms, causes, and treatment options for binge eating disorder.

Other Predisposing Factors Involved With Binge Eating Disorder

Traumatic events, deaths, separation, physical illness, tragedy, sexual and/or physical abuse, and bullying can often lead to binge eating disorder. Although the association isnt as common as with other eating disorders, a history of substance abuse is linked to cases of binge eating disorder.

There is also an increased occurrence of childhood obesity among those with binge eating disorder.

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How Does Binge Eating Disorder Affect Pregnancy

Binge eating disorder can cause problems getting pregnant and during pregnancy. Pregnancy can also trigger binge eating disorder.

Obesity raises the level of the hormone estrogen in your body. Higher levels of estrogen can stop you from ovulating, or releasing an egg from the ovary. This can make it more difficult to get pregnant. However, if you do not want to have children right now and have sex, you should use birth control.

Overweight or obesity may also cause problems during pregnancy. Overweight and obesity raises your risk for:

  • Gestational hypertension and preeclampsia . If not controlled, both problems can threaten the life of the mother and the baby.
  • Gestational diabetes . If not controlled, gestational diabetes can cause you to have a large baby. This raises your risk for a C-section.15

Pregnancy can raise the risk for binge eating disorder in women who are at higher risk for eating disorders. In one study, almost half of the women with binge eating disorder got the condition during pregnancy. The research suggests that binge eating during pregnancy may be caused by:16

  • Worry over pregnancy weight gain. Women may binge because they feel a loss of control over their bodies because of the pregnancy weight.
  • Greater stress during pregnancy
  • History of smoking and alcohol abuse
  • Lack of social support

Webinar: Understanding The Facts About Binge Eating Disorder

When People Donât Understand My Binge Eating Disorder

Presented by: Allan S Kaplan MD MSc FRCP is currently a Senior Clinician/Scientist, Chief of Research at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, and Vice-Chair for Research and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto. He is also Director of the Institute of Medical Science, School of Graduate Studies, Faculty of Medicine. He was the inaugural Loretta Anne Rogers Chair in Eating Disorders at Toronto General Hospital and is currently Senior Scientist, Toronto General Research Institute. He received his medical, psychiatric, and graduate school training at the University of Toronto. He has worked in the field of eating disorders for 30 years, has lectured widely on various topics in the field, published 150 peer-reviewed articles, two books, 50 book chapters, and over 200 abstracts. He is the Past President of both the Academy for Eating Disorders, the largest organization of eating disorder professionals in the world and the International Eating Disorder Research Society. He has been a continuously funded peer-reviewed investigator since 1992 and has received grant support from the National Institute of Mental Health in the USA and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in Canada.

There are also three types of therapy that can be especially helpful in the treatment of BED. These therapies are:

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Anxiety Depression & Other Co

78.9% of those with BED experience a co-occurring diagnosis, as BED behaviors can be a maladaptive coping skill or increase symptoms of other mental disorders such as depression or anxiety.

Anxiety Disorders: Many individuals that struggle with clinical anxiety present with disordered relationships to food. This could be a result of using food to cope with emotional dysregulation. It is also likely that the opposite is true and that the shame, guilt, secrecy, and feelings of loss of control that occur with binge eating result in increased anxiety symptoms.

Mood Disorders: Mood disorders, such as Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder, are experienced by 46.4% of those with a BED diagnosis. This is unsurprising, as, similar to anxiety disorders, many individuals seek to cope with uncomfortable emotional states using food. This correlation may also occur due to an individuals self-view and self-worth being impacted by their binge eating behaviors. Binge eating episodes can also lead to feelings of hopelessness or despair as one feels they cannot control their behaviors.

Other Co-Occurring Diagnosis: The relationship between BED and other diagnoses are similar to those with mood and anxiety disorders, with the disorders fueling one another. Some other disorders that commonly co-occur with BED include impulse control disorders and substance use disorders.

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