When You Can’t Stop Eating: A Closer Look at Binge-Eating Disorder (BED)

Why Do People Binge-Eat?

For persons with Eating Disorders (particularly Bulimia Nervosa and Binge-Eating Disorder), food can be a source of comfort. It can fill a void that was caused by something completely unrelated to food or eating, such as childhood trauma or sexual abuse. This is not to say that every person with Binge-Eating Disorder has suffered a traumatic or abusive childhood, but it has been recognized as a contributing factor in some cases. Regardless of the cause of the disorder, persons with BED report using food as a comfort mechanism when they are feeling sad, angry, stressed, or anxious. However, this “comfort” that the food provides is only a short-term fix for the unpleasant feelings, and soon after the binge is over, sufferers report intense feelings of remorse and self-loathing. They feel disgusted with themselves and their inability to control what they eat. They want to stop, but cannot seem to – no matter how hard they try. This is problematic because it induces a vicious cycle of binge-eating. For instance, you eat to comfort yourself from an unpleasant emotion, you temporarily feel relief, then you feel extremely guilty for overeating, so you eat again to relieve yourself from the unpleasant emotions once again. As you can see, binge-eating can quickly develop into an uncontrollable cycle of using food as a means to feel better. But it is a double-edged sword, because although it may make you feel better in the short-term, it also makes you feel terrible about yourself in the long-term. This feeling is amplified when the individual begins to gain weight from all the overeating. The guilt and self-loathing are only intensified as the sufferer inevitably gains weight, yet he/she continues to binge-eat because it is what they have always associated with temporary relief and comfort.

Signs & Symptoms of Binge-Eating Disorder

The following are some signs and symptoms of Binge-Eating Disorder (BED):

  • Consuming excessive amounts of food in a relatively short period of time
  • Eating past the point of fullness/satiation
  • Feeling as though you cannot stop eating, no matter how hard you try
  • Experiencing a “trance-like” state of consciousness during a binge, where you cannot really taste the food you’re eating
  • Bingeing in secret, or hoarding snacks and treats to consume when you’re alone
  • Feeling guilty and ashamed either during or immediately after a binge episode
  • Feeling better (temporarily) while binge-eating
  • Constantly thinking about food or the next time you’ll be able to eat
  • Not engaging in compensatory behaviors (i.e. purging), despite feeling guilty about the binge

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