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Individuals who suffer from binge eating disorder frequently consume large amounts of food, sometimes up to 15,000 calories in one sitting. They often eat when no one is around, and they might feel compelled to hide and hoard their food. Binge eaters don’t induce vomiting after eating and are often overweight or obese. Those who binge and purge suffer from a different eating disorder called bulimia. About 2 percent of adults in the United States suffer from binge eating disorder.
Causes vary depending on the individual. In some cases, the cause of the disorder may never be known. Binge eating is often the result of a series of abnormal activities in the brain. Depression, extreme dieting, and stress might cause these. Some theories suggest that binge eating may be genetic, as it often runs in families.
Eating disorders are unpredictable and can affect anyone. The following factors indicate elevated risk:
It can be difficult to identify a binge eater by outward appearance. If you suffer from this eating disorder, you may be overweight or obese, or remain at you’re ideal body weight. Also, the following symptoms often occur in private:
If you suspect that you may have a binge eating disorder, your healthcare provider may examine you for signs of health problems that may have occurred due to frequent overeating. A mental health professional will usually make the eating disorder diagnosis.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, lists specific criteria that you must meet to be diagnosed with binge eating disorder. These criteria include:
If you start bingeing on occasion and are concerned, it’s important to take steps to prevent the issue from becoming a true eating disorder. Consider the following tips:
There are also a number of treatment options that you could seek out, including:
Talk therapy is the typical treatment for psychological disorders such as binge eating. Sessions with a therapist may be conducted one-on-one or in a group or in a family setting.
In some cases, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to treat the depression or anxiety that sometimes trigger binge eating. In extreme cases, you may be given the antiseizure medication topiramate. It has a history of reducing binge-eating episodes. This medication has extreme side effects, so it’s only offered in rare circumstances. Newer medications such as Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate) has been FDA-approved for the treatment of binge eating disorder.
You may also be referred to weight management programs, either during or after psychological treatment. These programs provide nutritional counseling and can help you learn to reach a healthy weight in a safe manner.
Binge eating can be treated with regular therapy. Because some people have a biological predisposition toward binge eating, relapse is possible. If you have a history of binge eating, it’s important to seek help as soon as you notice habits associated with the disorder returning. Binge eating can be difficult to treat once it becomes a compulsion, as those who suffer from it are often ashamed and secretive.
Written by: Marissa Selner and Marijane Leonard
Medically reviewed on: Jan 29, 2016: Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PMHNP-BC
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