When we think of Eating Disorders (ED), disorders such as Anorexia ad Bulimia and characteristics such as starvation or being skinny are more likely to pop up in our minds. We often neglect disorders such as Binge Eating Disorder (BED) which are more common than we think. This disorder is marked by recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by intense feelings of guilt and shame. Unlike other eating disorders such as Bulimia Nervosa, BED does not include any compensatory behaviours after binging, such as purging.
What is binge eating?
- Eating every few hours (e.g 2 hours) and having more than a single serving
- No control in eating behaviours (e.g. “I need to eat”, “I can’t stop”)
- Eating beyond feeling full (e.g. nauseousness, faint)
- Feeling depressed or guilty after eating
- Feeling embarrassed to eat in front of others
Identifying signs of BED
- Disappearance of a large amount of food
- Person is concerned with weight loss and general body image
- Person has no fixed eating schedule
- Person has low self-esteem
- Attempts of dieting or new dieting fads
- Person usually eats alone or is uncomfortable eating in front of others
Risk factors for BED
- Family history of BED or any other eating disorders
- Dieting may increase the likelihood of eating disorders
- Other psychological issues: Presence of other psychological problems (e.g. Depression and Anxiety)
- Social/cultural factors: Bullying, sexual assault, poor diet as a child
What can you do if you or someone you know have BED?
BED may lead to severe health consequences (e.g. Obesity, Heart disease), hence it is important to seek professional help to treat the eating disorder. If you suspect a loved one may be struggling with BED or any other eating disorder, try to engage in an open and honest dialogue with them, and encourage them to approach a psychologist/doctor.
Treatment and prevention
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Improve coping methods with negative thoughts of body image
- Introduce more helpful coping methods to avoid overeating (e.g. Exercising, painting)
- Interpersonal psychotherapy
- Focuses on improving interpersonal relationships to avoid overeating
- Reduce binge eating triggered by relationships problems
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Focuses on four components: emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, and mindfulness
- Concept of “Dialectical abstinence”: instill the idea that relapses or slip-ups are normal and inevitable through the recovery journey (ensure they stay on track and not fall back into old habits)
- Anti-depressants: affects chemicals in the brain to reduce binge eating)
- Topiramate (Topamax): reduces binge eating episodes
In the household: Build a healthy sense of self-esteem for your children/siblings to enhance their self-confidence and reduce issues with their body image. Follow adequate meal plans with sufficient nutrients as a habit to develop healthy eating patterns in the household.
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