Understanding Binge Eating Disorder

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When the topic of eating disorders come up, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa often get the most attention because they are the most prevalent eating disorders among young women – one of the most at-risk populations for these types of disorders. However, binge eating disorder is often underestimated.

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Source: Danny Abriel/Dalhousie University

Among U.S. adults, binge eating disorder (B.E.D.) is twice as prevalent as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa combined. Approximately 2.8 million American adults are affected by B.E.D. within a single year.

Unlike other eating disorders, B.E.D. tends to develop later in life, with a median age of 21, several years later than that of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Notably, binge eating disorder is much more evenly spread amongst genders than anorexia or bulimia.

As defined by the DSM-5, B.E.D. is characterized by several behavioral and emotional symptoms including recurrent episodes of binge eating occurring at least once a week for three months, eating a larger amount of food during a two-hour period, and lack of control over eating during the binge episode.

During binge eating episodes, individuals might eat until they are overly fool, excessively eat even though not physically hungry, eat more rapidly than normal, or possibly experience feelings of disgust, depression, or guilt from overeating.

Many individuals live with B.E.D. without ever being diagnosed due to the lack of awareness surrounding the condition, but it can do long-term physical damage and exacerbate health issues already common in adults.

Binge eating disorder has been linked to problems adapting to social roles, decline in quality of life due to health issues, heightened medical mortality and morbidity, and increased reliance on health care resources.

B.E.D. can also be difficult to identify. Unlike bulimia nervosa, no compensatory behaviors such as purging or excessive exercise have been linked with the condition. It can also be confused with overeating. While overeating can be an issue for many, B.E.D. is less common but more severe and is associated with significant physical and psychological problems.

B.E.D. is also distinct from common obesity. Compared to weight-matched obese individuals without binge eating disorder, obese adults with B.E.D. were found to eat more calories in studies and showed increased functional impairment, greater self-reported distress, impaired quality of life, and more coexisting psychiatric conditions.

Binge eating disorder is a serious condition that affects the lives of millions of people in America alone. If you or anyone you know experience symptoms of B.E.D., give us a call at (888) 298-4673. We can provide assistance and answer any questions you have.

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