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Binge Eating Disorder

Posted Apr 30 2011 12:49am

Binge-eating disorder (BED) is a serious eating disorder in which one frequently consumes unusually large amounts of food, continues eating even after feeling uncomfortably full or eats large amounts of food when not physically hungry.  The binging is experienced as a compulsion; although the affected child may be deeply embarrassed about gorging and vow to stop, they feel such a compulsion that they can’t resist the urges and continue binge eating.  BED should not be confused with Bulimia, where patients often develop a cycle of binging then purging (i.e. self-induced vomiting).

Although binge-eating disorder is the most common of all eating disorders, it is still not considered a distinct psychiatric condition.  The American Psychiatric Association will be recommending it as a distinct disorder for the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – 5 th edition, the “bible” of psychiatric diseases).

While no one can prove any specific cause, here are some common risk factors:

  1. Being female. Women are slightly more likely than men to develop binge-eating disorder.
  2. Your age. Although people of any age can have binge-eating disorder, it often begins when people are in late adolescence or their early 20s.
  3. Family history. If you have close relatives who’ve had an eating disorder, you have an increased risk of developing an eating disorder yourself.
  4. Co-existing Mental Illness, i.e. Depression, Anxiety, etc.

People with binge eating disorder are usually very upset by their binge eating and may become depressed as a result.  Research has shown that people with binge eating disorder report more health problems, stress, trouble sleeping, and suicidal thoughts than do people without an eating disorder.

Importantly, people with binge eating disorder often feel bad about themselves and may miss work, school, or social activities to binge eat.  Here’s something to be on the the look-out for. You may notice your child skipping school or social functions in order to get time alone so they can binge.  While eating alone is not a problem in itself, you should be aware of the difference between “eating” and “binging.”

Remember, these kids do not compensate for this over-eating like Bulimics do.  Therefore, they are often obese.  While obesity itself has many contributing factors, BED could possibly be at the root of your child’s obesity.  We suggest you take note of signs of BED, such as:

  1. Child is skipping family meals, but is also gaining weight. This means they are eating somewhere else – and possibly binging.
  2. Numerous food containers/wrappers in places your child spends time alone, like their bedroom or the basement.
  3. Your child is becoming more isolated, or not seeing their usual friends as often as they once did.
  4. Food goes missing from the refrigerator.

We here at hope you’ll take BED seriously, and learn to recognize the signs in your children.

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