Binge eating disorder (BED)
Binge eating disorder (BED) is now a recognised condition that is believed to affect more people than other eating disorders, probably at least 2% of all adults although this figure is hard to establish as it is believed the majority of people do not seek help. BED is classified as an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) until formal agreement on a definition is completed.
In some ways BED is similar to bulimia nervosa with people feeling the same compulsion to binge however people with BED do not follow this up by purging so as a result many more people with this eating disorder are likely to become obese. People who binge will often do so in secret and eat much less or feel very self conscious when eating around others. During a binge food is often consumed very quickly with little attention paid to what and how much is being eaten or whether the individual was hungry so afterwards they can feel full to the point of feeling sick and having stomach pains. Just being around food can be a very stressful experience for the binge eater and feelings of despair, shame and guilt are common following a binge.
The relationship with food someone with BED has is extremely complex and the following extract from an interview I conducted illustrates that.
“As a child I loved food, but in a healthy way, I never overate or binged. Looking back I guess food symbolised love, closeness, happiness, fun, family .... as the four of us would always have our main evening meal together and that was an extended time for everyone to share their day and have a laugh together. Then everything changed when I was about a year into my first long-term relationship .... he was very clever, I didn’t really notice it to start with, but gradually he’d made me become isolated from my friends and family, he was really jealous and possessive, he criticised everything I did, and, to cut a long story short, he became very abusive, emotionally and physically and I just didn’t know how to get out of it. I needed comfort and the only thing I felt I had any control over was food so I would binge like mad in secret then hardly eat anything when he was around. I finally escaped the relationship but many years after that I still don’t have what I would call a normal relationship with food. I still binge for what feels like any and every reason and even though I’m happy with my life and I have good friends and family I just haven’t been able to stop it and I hate how it controls me.”
As with many eating disorders more women than men suffer from BED and nearly half of them have previously suffered from depression. Illnesses and the higher risks associated with obesity and unhealthy diets are frequent for this group of sufferers and due to the secretive nature of the illness continued or regular isolation from others is common.
People suffering from this disorder may benefit from an integrated approach including person-centred, to identify the underlying cause and cognitive behavioural therapy to identify their triggers (particular, thoughts, feelings and situations) and find alternative behaviours to bingeing.
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