Binge-eating disorder is a serious eating disorder defined by consuming unusually large amounts of food and difficulty to stop eating.
Excessive uncontrollable overeating is a regular occurrence towards Binge-eating disorder. The disorder causes a compulsion for overeating and inability to resist urges thus the binge eating continues.
Binge-eating disorder leads to overweight or obesity but sometimes it can occur in people with normal weight.
The symptoms of binge-eating disorder include:
- Eating unusually large amounts of food in a certain amount of time
- Out of control eating behavior
- Eating rapidly during episodes
- Eating until uncomfortably full
- Eating in secret
- Eating even if not hungry
- Frequent dieting, often without weight loss
- Feelings of depression, embarrassment or guilt about eating
The exact cause of binge-eating disorder is unclear. However, family history, long-term dieting, psychological problems and biological factors can increase the risk of developing this disorder.
Risk factors for binge-eating disorder include:
- Family history: People whose family members have eating disorders are more likely to develop one as well. Inherited genes increase the risk of developing an eating disorder.
- Dieting: A history of long-term dieting combined with restricting calories and depression can lead to abnormal urges for eating.
- Psychological issues: Many people with this disorder have negative thoughts about themselves and their achievements. Common triggers for bingeing are stress, low self-esteem, poor body self-image and food.
- Age: Binge-eating disorder can develop at any age but the most common cases occur in late teens or early 20s.
Complications (physical and psychological) related to binge-eating disorder include:
- Low self-esteem
- Poor quality of life
- Work-related or personal problems
- Social isolation
- Medical conditions resulting from obesity (heart disease, joint problems, type 2 diabetis, GERD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Substance use disorders
The treatments for binge-eating disorders aim to reduce eating urges and encourage weight loss if necessary. Due to the psychological problems linked to binge-eating disorder such as depression and low self-esteem, treatment and psychological support may be necessary.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): The objective of CBT is to teach one how to manage binge-eating triggers such as negative feelings or depression. It also aims to provide a sense of control over the compulsive behavior.
- Interpersonal psychotherapy: The goal of this therapy is to improve social and interpersonal skills in order to reduce binge-eating that is triggered by unhealthy relationships or poor communication.
- Dialectical behavior therapy: Dialectical behavior therapy teaches behavioral skills to manage stress, emotions and social relationships at a healthier level, which can eventually reduce the urges to binge eat.
The drug lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (Vyvanse) used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is also approved to treat medium to severe binge-eating disorder in adults. The common side effects of this medication include dry mouth and insomnia.
Examples of other medications that can reduce symptoms include:
- The anticonvulsant topiramate (Topamax): This drug is generally used to manage seizures but it has also shown to reduce binge-eating episodes. The side effects include dizziness and kidney stones.
- Antidepressants: Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help to reduce binge eating due to their impact on certain brain chemicals related to mood.
Behavioral weight-loss programs
Weight-loss programs are not recommended prior to treatment because dieting may trigger binge eating. Therefore, weight-loss programs are usually conducted under medical supervision to ensure the intake of proper nutrition. Weight-loss programs have shown to be particularly successful when combined with cognitive behavioral therapy.
There is no guaranteed way to prevent binge-eating disorder but promoting healthy behavior such as reinforcing a healthy body image may prevent the situation from getting worse.