Binge Eating as an Eating Disorder

Binge Eating as an Eating DisorderWhile anorexia and bulimia may be more well-known, millions of Americans engage in binge eating as a type of eating disorder. While the symptoms are different this disorder can be every bit as life-threatening.

Psychological Nature of Binge Eating

Chronic obesity is on the rise and much of this is due to an unhealthy psychological relationship with food. The brain controls the body through a system of chemical signals in the central nervous system; eating and appetite are two of these functions. When a person eats, her brain releases a small amount of chemicals that trigger a pleasurable response in the brain. The brain notices this response and craves it again and again. As with drugs and alcohol, the body develops a tolerance to these chemicals, meaning it takes more and more food to trigger the response. This can lead to a compulsive, irresistible need for more food.

Most people feel comfortable and rested after a good meal. This is a result of the chemicals released by the brain after eating. Many people end up craving the chemical burst they experience after eating in the same way a heroin addict craves a drug. These cravings eventually lead to binge eating, which usually results in significant weight gain, feelings of shame or anxiety and eventually cravings for more of the feel good chemicals of binge eating. Most binge eaters crave high carbohydrate and high fat foods, but some crave vegetables or other healthy foods as well. It is also common for binge eaters to be unaware of their psychological distress until the disease is extremely advanced.

How to Treat Binge Eating

Individuals who binge eat often feel a wide range of stressful emotions including the following:

  • Shame
  • Confusion
  • Frustration
  • Anger
  • Self-loathing

These feelings often lead to alcohol or drug abuse for self-medication. In many ways binge eating disorder works in the brain similarly to addiction, and successful treatment is often similar to drug rehab.

The first step in helping a person to overcome compulsive overeating is detox, ending the cycle of cravings in the brain. But lasting recovery also requires psychological rehab. The most successful programs develop customized treatment plans for each patient. Most of these programs involve several of the following elements:

  • Personal counseling
  • Support groups
  • Intensive education about eating disorder
  • Developing healthy new coping skills
  • Nutritional and dietary support
  • Opportunities to help and to serve other recovering binge eaters

Our counselors are ready to answer any questions you may have whether you are calling for yourself or a loved one.

Help Finding Treatment for Binge Eating

If you would like more information about binge eating or to be connected with a recovery program, please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline today. If untreated, binge eating can lead to chronic obesity, heart disease, depression and early death. Don’t let it get to that point and don’t be ashamed to ask for help.