What Is the Most Common Eating Disorder? (and What to Do If You Think You Have It)
Randy Smith
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What Is the Most Common Eating Disorder? (and What to Do If You Think You Have It)


Eating disorders are tragically common: up to 10% of the U.S. population (some 30 million people) will be affected by an eating disorder in their lifetime. But among the different eating disorder diagnoses, some are more common than others. Read on to learn about the most common eating disorder and what steps you should take if you or someone you love is struggling with it.


The most common eating disorder


When many people hear the term “eating disorder,” they think immediately of anorexia or bulimia. But in fact, the most common eating disorder is binge eating disorder (BED). Binge eating disorder is defined by repeated episodes of binge eating, without purging afterward. A binge is when a person eats an unusually large amount of food very quickly, past the point of discomfort, while feeling a lack of control. Binges are generally followed by intense feelings of shame and guilt, and are generally preceded by periods of not eating enough.


Similar to other eating disorders, binge eating disorder behaviors can stem from restriction. However, unlike other eating disorders, BED doesn’t usually involve behaviors like vomiting or excessive exercising to “make up” for the amount of food consumed (behaviors that fall under the umbrella of “purging”).


Having the occasional big meal or snack doesn’t mean you have binge eating disorder. It becomes a concern when this happens frequently, and it starts to cause you distress and affect your daily life.


What to do if you think you have an eating disorder


If you suspect you might have disordered eating habits that may be becoming an eating disorder, it’s crucial to take action quickly. Prompt and early intervention is important for the best odds of recovery—though full recovery is possible for anyone struggling, regardless of when they get help.


Here’s what to do if you’re worried that you have binge eating disorder or another eating disorder:


  • Acknowledge your concerns: The first step is acknowledging that something might be going on. If you constantly worry about food, your weight, or your body, and are noticing disordered behaviors around food, it may be time to admit that these concerns need attention.


  • Reach out to someone you trust: You don’t have to go through this alone—in fact, it’s not possible. Talk to someone you trust: a friend, family member, teacher, or counselor. Opening up about what you’re going through can be tough, but it’s a necessary step toward getting the support you need.


  • Educate yourself: Knowledge is power. Taking the time to learn about binge eating disorder or eating disorders in general can be helpful. Understanding what you could be dealing with can empower you to make more informed decisions and realize that eating disorders are complex illnesses that need real treatment, not a lack of willpower.


  • Consult a professional: The next vital step is connecting with a medical professional. This could be your primary care doctor, a dietitian, or a mental health professional. They can help assess your situation, provide a diagnosis if needed, and help guide you toward suitable treatment options. You can also schedule a free consultation with our team at Equip.


  • Consider therapy: Therapy can be a game-changer. It can help you identify and change unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors around food.


  • Involve your support system: Friends and family can be your biggest supporters and allies. Involving them in your journey can provide you with a safety net when recovery gets hard, as well as help protect you against relapse when treatment is over. Whether they’re attending treatment sessions with you or simply listening to your concerns, having a solid support system is invaluable to your recovery.


  • Give yourself grace: Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient and kind to yourself. There may be ups and downs, but every step forward is progress.


Binge eating disorder is a serious mental health condition, and it’s more common than many people realize. If you think you or someone you love is struggling with BED, get in touch with our team today for more information or to schedule a free consultation.


About Angela Celio Doyle, PhD

Dr. Doyle has been a clinician and researcher in the eating disorder field for over 20 years. Passionate about early intervention and access to evidence-based care, she trains treatment providers internationally in providing family-based treatment for eating disorders and has a research background in internet-based eating disorder prevention programs. Dr. Doyle earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the SDSU-UCSD Joint Doctoral Program and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago. She holds an adjunct faculty position at the University of Washington's Department of Psychology and is Vice President of Behavioral Health Care at Equip.

References

1. de Jong, Martie, et al. “Effectiveness of Enhanced Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Eating Disorders: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” International Journal of Eating Disorders, vol. 53, no. 5, 2020, pp. 447-57. doi:10.1002/eat.23239.

2. Peat, Christine M. et al. “Binge Eating Disorder: Evidence-Based Treatments.” Current Psychiatry, vol. 11, no. 5, 2012, pp. 32-39. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4768866/.

3. Sander, Johanna, et al. “Depression, Anxiety and Eating Disorder-Related Impairment: Moderators in Female Adolescents and Young Adults.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 18, no. 5, Mar. 2021, p. 2779. https://doi.org/10.3390%2Fijerph18052779.


Randy Smith
Content Writer
Clinically reviewed by:
Angela Celio Doyle, PhD, FAED
Vice President, Behavioral Health Care, Equip
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