Although anorexia and bulimia get their rightful share of press attention, a more common, and no less serious eating disorder often goes unreported. Binge eating disorder is characterised by repeated bouts of compulsive eating, often for hours at a time. Such eating usually occurs in private, and often at night. Sufferers report that they feel no sense of control over their eating, and it often distresses them either at the time of the binge or quickly after. A large proportion of sufferers are men
We are all familiar with using food to regulate our mood. Eating chocolate, cakes and other treats, are used by people to lift their mood, and help them get through the day. In binge eating disorder, however, the man eats excessively to cope with distressing emotion. Unfortunately the binging itself often gives way to feelings of guilt, disgust and despair. In fact there is a close link between binge eating and depression, with sufferers often being currently depressed or having reported being depressed in the past. The age of onset is similar to other eating disorders, late adolescence and early adulthood. Sometimes binging starts after an aggressive period of weight loss.
Unlike anorexia or bulimia, there is usually no attempt by the sufferer to purge the food by vomiting, laxatives or exercise. As a result the most obvious physical consequence of binge eating disorder is excessive weight gain, which in turn causes further health problems and undermines self esteem.
There is a lot that can be done to help people with binge eating disorder. Keeping a food diary often helps to limit episodes of binging, as does exercise, which naturally helps to moderate food intake. There are also strategys to help sufferers regulate their emotions in a more sustainable way. Ultimately, however, issues of low self esteem and depression need to be worked through before many sufferers can say they have beaten the disorder.
Dr Phil Tyson is a Men's Psychotherapist based in Manchester in the UK. He offers: