It’s More Common Than You Think: Binge Eating Disorder Is Increasing Across the United States

When someone thinks about eating disorders, he or she is most likely to think of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. These two diagnoses are some of the most common among patients with eating disorders, and they are both widely known and well publicized. However, other eating disorders also exist. One such lesser known disorder is binge eating disorder. Although this disorder is not as recognizable to the general public as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, it is still a serious illness that affects many people all across the United States. In fact, the incidence of binge eating disorder has been increasing in recent years, and it is now the most common eating disorder diagnosed. The information below explains binge eating disorder, the impact it has on patients and its recent increase in the United States.

What Is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder occurs when an individual experiences frequent episodes of overeating. During these episodes, the individual consumes large amounts of food and feels unable to stop eating. Occasional binge eating, such as eating extra food on a holiday, does not indicate that someone has this illness. An individual who truly has binge eating disorder will overeat on a regular basis.

Binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia nervosa in that people who have the disorder tend to consume large amounts of food in one sitting. However, unlike people with bulimia nervosa, people who have binge eating disorder do not use purging or excessive exercise to get rid of excess calories after an episode of binging.

What Are the Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder?

Some of the most common symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Eating an unreasonably large amount of food in a short period of time
  • Eating even when feeling full or not hungry
  • Eating enough to feel uncomfortable or sick
  • Eating quickly during an episode of binging
  • Feeling that binging cannot be controlled
  • Eating in secret
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed or disgusted by episodes of binging

It is possible to have binge eating disorder without having all of these symptoms. In addition, some people who have one or more of the symptoms above may not have binge eating disorder. For this reason, it is important for anyone experiencing symptoms of binge eating disorder to be evaluated by a professional who specializes in binge eating disorder treatment.

What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?

Researchers have not yet been able to find a specific cause of binge eating disorder. However, most experts believe it develops based on a combination of different factors. Some of the factors that may contribute to the development of binge eating disorder include psychological issues, a family history of binge eating disorder and a history of dieting. People who have binge eating disorder are more likely to have a negative self-image. They may be unhappy with their appearance, accomplishments or life in general.

People who have a family history of eating disorders may be more likely to develop binge eating disorder because they carry certain genes associated with this problem. Finally, people who have a history of dieting may develop binge eating disorder because of calorie restriction. The risk is especially high for people who also have depression.

Certain events, such as stress, can trigger episodes of binging.

Effects of Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder affects people in a number of ways. In some cases, individuals who have binge eating disorder become overweight because of their excessive calorie intake during episodes of binging.  People who have this disorder may also experience psychological complications because of their binge eating episodes. For example, many people with binge eating disorder become socially isolated because of shame associated with binging episodes and/or their appearance. Problems functioning at work and poor quality life are common among people with this disorder as well. Among people who become obese because of binge eating disorder, additional medical conditions may develop. Examples include sleep-related breathing disorders, gastroesophageal reflux, type 2 diabetes and joint problems.

Binge eating disorder often occurs simultaneously with certain psychiatric disorders, including substance use disorders, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder and depression.

The Spread of Binge Eating Disorder in the United States

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, binge eating disorder currently affects approximately 1.2 percent of all people in the United States. It is diagnosed twice as frequently among females as it is among males, and it usually begins when an individual is around the age of 21. The lifetime prevalence of binge eating disorder in the United States is 2.8 percent.

Eating disorders in general have been on the rise in recent years. In fact, according to a study published in “Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention”, the prevalence of eating disorders on college campuses has increased sharply over the past 13 years, now impacting more than 20 percent of male students and more than 30 percent of female students. Binge eating disorder is the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder of all, and its incidence only continues to grow.

Why Is Binge Eating Disorder Increasing?

The reason for the increase in the incidence of binge eating disorder is difficult to pinpoint. One possible explanation is an increase in stress levels across the United States. As stress levels increase, people are more likely to look to coping mechanisms, such as binge eating, to deal with the stress in their lives. Another possible explanation is the rise of fad diets. Many of these diets require participants to place severe restrictions on their intake of certain foods or calories in general. When these requirements are too stringent, people are more prone to episodes of binge eating. Yet another factor that may contribute to the spread of binge eating disorders is the increase in the incidence of negative body image, especially among females. The media perpetuates an image of perfection that few people can really attain. In fact, many of the images used on television or in magazines have been enhanced and edited to increase their appeal. Unfortunately, media consumers still develop an unrealistic picture of how the human body should look. This leads to negative body image, which contributes to the development of all eating disorders.

Binge Eating Disorder Treatment

If an individual is showing the signs or symptoms of binge eating disorder, seeking professional evaluation and treatment is the best course of action. The goal of binge eating disorder treatment is to help patients understand their disorder and overcome it, so they can begin on the path to true recovery. Evidence-based binge eating disorder treatment usually begins with determining the underlying cause of the individual’s disorder. In many cases, the disorder will have developed because of a combination of factors. Once these factors have been identified in binge eating therapy, it is easier for the patient to understand why he or she has the urge to engage in episodes of binging.

After the individual understands why he or she binge eats, the individual can begin working toward binge eating disorder recovery. Depending on the specifics of the situation, this process may involve psychotherapy to deal with body image issues or other psychiatric concerns, educational sessions to help the patient develop coping mechanisms or learn about proper diet and nutrition, alternative therapies to deal with stress and more. At the end of the binge eating treatment process, the patient should be able to utilize more positive coping skills, even when faced with triggers.

Finding the Right Binge Eating Recovery Program

Although they may have the same objective, not all binge eating recovery programs are the same. Different programs use different approaches to binge eating therapy, and some of these approaches are more effective than others. For this reason, it is essential for anyone needing binge eating treatment to compare different treatment programs carefully.

Binge eating disorder should not be treated in the same way as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. It is a unique disorder with its own causes, symptoms and complications. Thus, it is important for potential patients or the families of potential patients to look for binge eating treatment programs that specialize in the treatment of this specific disorder. Other factors that should be considered when an individual is considering different binge eating disorder recovery programs include:

  • Treatment methods used:Many different methods of treatment may be used to treat binge eating disorder. In general, it is best to seek treatment at a facility that offers a variety of different treatment modalities and customizes each treatment program to meet the needs of the individual patient.
  • Effectiveness of the program:Perhaps the most important factor to consider when comparing binge eating recovery facilities is the effectiveness of the programs they offer. To determine how effective a given program will be, potential patients should research programs online, read testimonials and inquire about success rates.
  • Environment:Some treatment facilities provide only the most basic accommodations, while others are more luxurious. Depending on the patient’s preference, one type of facility may be preferable to others. Patients should be sure that they are comfortable in a facility’s environment before enrolling in a program.
  • Location: Finding a treatment facility close to home is important to some people who want to recover from binge eating disorder. For other people, however, getting away from home to focus on recovery in a different location may be preferable.
  • Aftercare:While some treatment facilities release patients directly back to their normal lives with only limited follow-up, others offer extensive aftercare resources. These resources provide patients with support as they transition out of residential treatment. Facilities that offer aftercare are more likely to facilitate a successful recovery.

Finding Binge Eating Disorder Treatment Near Me

If you have symptoms of binge eating disorder, you may be asking “how do I find binge eating disorder treatment near me?” Fortunately, it is easy to find treatment centers in your area simply by searching online. Nevertheless, keep in mind that the treatment center closest to your home is not necessarily the best treatment center for your needs. Be sure that the facility you choose offers a binge eating disorder treatment program that gives you the best chance of recovering from your disorder successfully.

Oliver-Pyatt Centers offer treatment to people with binge eating disorder. Contact us today to learn more.