Binge eating disorder signs and symptoms
- Evidence of binge eating, including large amounts of food disappearing in short periods of time or lots of empty wrappers and containers
- Any new practice with food or fad diets, including cutting out entire food groups like sugar, carbs, dairy, or meat
- Avoiding eating in public or with others
- Stealing or hoarding food in strange places
- Frequent dieting, often without weight loss
- Creating routines or rituals to make time for binge sessions
- Social withdrawal
- Weight changes, both up and down
- Feelings of low self-esteem
- Stomach cramps or other gastrointestinal complaints, like constipation or acid reflux
As frustrating as it is, there is rarely one identifiable cause of an eating disorder, and binge eating disorder is no different. More often than not, it is a constellation of neurobiological and environmental factors: in other words, someone has a genetic predisposition to developing an eating disorder, and then the eating disorder is “turned on” by environmental factors. You can learn more about the causes of eating disorders on our blog.
As with all eating disorder treatment at Equip, the initial focus of binge eating disorder treatment is normalizing eating habits and stopping eating disorder behaviors. We focus on these behavioral and nutritional aspects first and foremost, because it's difficult for patients to make progress in other areas when they're actively engaging in eating disorder behaviors.
Disordered or erratic eating patterns can lead to malnutrition, regardless of a patient's weight or other medical signs. When the body is malnourished, the brain is, too. A malnourished brain doesn’t think clearly or take in new information well. People who are malnourished are more likely to be depressed, anxious, and have trouble paying attention.
Once patients have been able to normalize their eating habits and stop or significantly reduce their binge eating behaviors, the focus of treatment can shift to other areas. That might mean working on interpersonal relationships, setting goals outside of their eating disorder, learning to handle triggers in their daily life, or understanding potential root causes of the eating disorder.
To accomplish all this, our clinicians use a variety of different evidence-based treatment modalities, including CBT-E (a form of cognitive behavioral therapy designed specifically for eating disorders), DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy), and ERP (exposure and response prevention). For younger patients who live with their family, we generally use FBT (family-based treatment).
Though the specifics of a binge will look different from person to person and circumstance to circumstance, there are some defining criteria. A binge is defined as an episode of eating in which a person eats a large quantity of food while feeling a lack of control. This often means eating past the point of fullness until uncomfortable, eating extremely quickly, eating alone, and feeling shame after eating.
Binge eating disorder statistics and facts to know
- BED is the most common eating disorder in the US, affecting roughly 2.8 million people in their lifetime.
- Unlike other eating disorders, BED affects males and females fairly equally.
- About 1.6% of teens and adolescents have BED.
- Though BED is more common among people in larger bodies, it affects people of all body sizes
- Nearly half of people with BED also also have at least one other psychiatric disorder.