When you think that a loved one may have an eating disorder, it is crucial to watch for the signs and symptoms so that they can be helped with their binge eating recovery or recommended to an appropriate binge eating treatment center. There are many symptoms besides the more obvious physical signs. They may exhibit a variety of mental, emotional, and behavioral symptoms that may be harder to spot. Some symptoms may not even be apparent until they are working through their eating disorder treatment.  The first step in identifying possible symptoms of binge eating disorder is understanding what the disorder actually is.

What Is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder can be a serious condition where a person will consume a large amount of food at the time and sometimes be unable to stop themselves from eating. Binge eating disorder is much more than overeating on the holidays or indulging in seconds or thirds even when you are already full. During these instances, it may seem like the food consumption gets out of control and occurrences will often become more frequent. Over time binge eating can lead to a variety of related health conditions as well as changes in mood and behavior. While binge eating disorder can get progressively worse, it is treatable at an eating disorder treatment center.

Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

Symptoms of binge eating disorder vary from person to person and while some are easier to spot, others may be difficult and may not fully be understood until later. Most people will notice the physical and behavioral symptoms, though the mental and emotional symptoms may be a lot harder to ascertain. It is also important to remember that someone with binge eating disorder may only show a few of the symptoms listed below, but it does not mean the problem should not be addressed.

Physical Symptoms

When watching for signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder, the first and most obvious signs that get noticed are physical symptoms. These symptoms are mostly a result of the over-consumption of calories and issues with the body that can develop. Some of the physical symptoms that can be found with binge eating disorder are:

  • Fluctuations in weight – Many people with binge eating disorder will be overweight, typically with rapid and frequent fluctuations in weight especially around episodes where binge eating occurs. Typical weight fluctuation is usually around five pounds, so anything out of that range should be looked into.
  • Overeating – Regular episodes of overeating is often the most noticeable symptom. These instances involve rapid eating and eating past the point of being full. This symptom may not be noticeable to everybody as it may be done in secret to avoid judgment.
  • Eating until they become ill – Since someone with binge eating disorder has problems controlling how much food they are consuming, they may eat until they get to the point where they are physically ill. If they continually complain about stomach pains after eating or eat until three spit up, odds are they are eating more than their body can handle.
  • High blood pressure – Binge eating disorder involves the over-consumption of food and oftentimes processed or snack foods high in sodium. Extra weight can lead to higher blood pressure, and once blood pressure is elevated, the higher sodium foods can cause it to worsen. Symptoms of high blood pressure can include flushing in the face especially after activity.
  • High cholesterol levels – Cholesterol levels are often higher when someone is overweight, and if the excess food that they are consuming during binge eating is high in trans or saturated fat, cholesterol levels can be elevated increasing the risk of clogging in the arteries.
  • Coronary disease – High cholesterol and high blood pressure can lead to a narrowing and blocking of the arteries resulting in several heart-related complications. If these complications are present, they should be immediately addressed to prevent further heart-related issues.
  • Painful joints – As weight increases above the ideal size for a person’s body frame and type, it can become more difficult for the body to support itself. This additional pressure can often affect the joints, causing pain and achiness, especially with increased movement.
  • Gastrointestinal problems – Eating too much food, or large amounts of food that are processed, or high in fat, can lead to some gastrointestinal problems. This can include bouts of constipation, or diarrhea, or even gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • Type II diabetes – Being overweight or consuming high levels of sugar can result in problems with the body controlling insulin which can lead to the development of Type II diabetes. Diabetes can result in the need for insulin and can lead to a host of medical issues including nerve pain and numbness.
  • Sleep apnea – Sleep apnea is caused when the soft tissue towards the back of the throat collapse occasionally while at rest. When this occurs a person will experience short periods where their breathing is interrupted. Sleep apnea occurs when the body has excess weight, especially around the neck area. The condition not only interrupts restorative sleep, but it also can lead to heart complications.

Behavioral Symptoms

Behavioral symptoms of binge eating disorder may not be immediately apparent but are behaviors that may become more noticeable over time. Most of the behavioral symptoms that are present are behaviors involved with hiding the food or the act of eating. Behavioral symptoms to watch out for are.

  • The disappearance of large amounts of food – If there is a lot of food in the home, or a lot of people who utilize it, this behavioral symptom may be more difficult to notice. While binge eating can occur with any food type, it is sometimes easier to take snack foods or other similar items without them being as easily noticed when they disappear.
  • Hidden food in rooms – Since binge eating often occurs when someone is alone, a behavioral symptom might be regularly finding food hidden in bedrooms or living areas. This can include under the bed, in drawers or closets, or any other place where food would not normally be stored.
  • Large quantities of empty containers or wrappers – There may be stashes of trash from consumed food hidden in the bottom of trash cans or more unusual places such as drawers and under the bed. This is often the result of a binge eating episode, and the evidence may often be hidden until it can be disposed of without being seen.
  • Consistent eating throughout the day – While regular snacking is often common, continuing and recurrent eating throughout the day off of normal mealtimes can be a sign that the eating is more a result of compulsion than actual hunger.
  • Stockpiling of food – Binge eating disorder is marked by the constant need and wants to eat. To make eating in private easy, someone with binge eating disorder may purchase large amounts of snack food and stockpile it in their room so that they can have it available when they need it.
  • Excuses for meal absences – Since many people with binge eating disorder wish to eat in private they may tend to make a variety of excuses to avoid family mealtimes. This can include the need to study or to meet up with friends. If skipping meals becomes routine, it may be cause for concern.
  • Periods of fasting – When someone who eats fairly frequently suddenly stops consuming food for a long period, it could the result of a periodic fast that occurs due to feelings of guilt.
  • The desire to eat alone – With binge eating disorder, hiding eating is a common behavior. This can include taking meals in their room or even avoiding social situations where food will be involved.
  • Withdrawal from social activities – Due to the need to be in control, and fear of having to eat around others, many people with binge eating disorder will begin to isolate themselves from normal social activities that they once had participated in. When these social activities involve food, this can become even more pronounced.
  • Perfectionistic tendencies – Binge eating disorder can leave a feeling of lack of control. Because they feel the food is taking control of their lives, they may find having control over other aspects of their life very empowering. This can result in tendencies to want to create perfection in everything that they do. This can include being particular about the placement of items in their room, taking time to choose the perfect ensemble every day, or working obsessively on homework or outside projects.
  • Disciplinary problems – Much of binge eating has to do with issues of control. As the binge eating becomes more common, that lack of control can lead them to act out. This acting out can result in discipline problems at home or issues that occur at school.

Emotional and Mental Symptoms

Emotional and mental symptoms associated with the binge-eating disorder can be the most difficult to determine. These symptoms are typically uncovered after binge eating disorder recovery at a binge eating treatment center has begun, though these symptoms may be obvious to someone who is a close confidant. Some of the emotional symptoms that can come along with binge eating disorder are:

  • Depression – With binge eating disorder the inability to be able to control situations, emotions, and eating can lead to feelings of depression.
  • Poor body image – Since binge eating disorder can result in a fluctuation in weight, it also often comes with a dissatisfaction in one’s appearance. This negative view of one’s body size or shape can increase episodes of binge eating.
  • Feelings of shame – The lack of control that binge eating can bring is often accompanied by feelings of shame. This symptom can be particularly hard to notice unless the person with the disorder has someone they confide in with how they are feeling.
  • Anxiety – Since binge eating disorder is something that often occurs in private, there may be anxiety associated with food in general. Family gatherings, holidays, or parties where food is a main part of the celebration can lead to stress and even panic attacks.

When Should You Seek Out Treatment?

Since many of the symptoms of binge eating disorder can be difficult to see, or may not present themselves for a while, treatment at an eating disorder treatment center should be sought even if only some of the above symptoms have been observed. While overindulgence is common, especially on celebratory occasions, persistent occasions of losing control over food consumption should be considered a possible sign. If observed, it is important to be on the lookout for other symptoms to allow their binge eating disorder recovery to be as effective as possible and prevent many of the dangerous physical conditions from occurring.

 

Carrie Hunnicutt

With 20 years of behavioral health business development experience, Carrie combines world-class marketing, media, public relations, outreach and business development with a deep understanding of client care and treatment. Her contributions to the world of behavioral health business development – and particularly eating disorder treatment – go beyond simple marketing; she has actively developed leaders for her organizations and for the industry at large.

Oliver-Pyatt Centers is grounded in mindfulness and the belief that each person has the capacity for a mindful relationship with food and their body. Present in every aspect of our program, this philosophy encompasses nutrition and eating, as well as movement, with an emphasis on becoming free from negative habits, behaviors and rigidity. We work from a place of empathy and wisdom, using a medically grounded, psychologically gentle approach.

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