A breakthrough was made in 2013. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) published Binge Eating Disorder (BED) in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition or DSM-V. Why was this a breakthrough? Prior to that, mental health professionals found it difficult to properly assess BED sufferers. They were not properly nor specifically categorized as having a disorder worthy of attention unlike those suffering from Anorexia or Bulimia Nervosa. BED was part of a generic subcategory known as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) in the DSM-IV, published in 1994. To that end, they would not have insurance coverage nor specified help as the disorder was lumped in that category alongside other EDNOS’ such as food addiction or nutritional obsession. The good news with being in DSM-V, you or your loved one who suffer from BED will be able to be treated in the same way as anyone else with a properly defined mental illness. More importantly, a BED sufferer changes from a food delinquent/rebel to a legitimate patient in need of care, nurture, and support.
According to the UK’s National Health Services (NHS), binge eating is an eating disorder where a person feels compelled to overeat on a regular basis through regular binges. In other words, the disorder is characterized by compulsive overeating or eating extraordinarily large amounts of food in a short space of time, such as eating large quantities of food within a two-hour period without resorting to any harmful measures to purge such as can be found in Bulimia Nervosa. It is part of a wider sphere of eating disorders which includes Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, food addiction, and Orthorexia Nervosa to name a few.
According to ACORN, a food dependency and recovery services organization in the US, there is a significant difference between the nature of BED sufferers being compulsive overeaters to the avid food addict. Compulsive overeating is usually spawned by underlying developmental trauma, wherein sufferers eat to satiate emotional problems, whereas food addicts develop an extraordinary craving for certain food types. Nevertheless, this does not discount the fact that for many BED sufferers, food addiction will most definitely play a significant role in their problem. For instance, in the development of compulsive eating as a coping mechanism, BED sufferers will most likely choose only certain foods that can best satiate the emotional problems underlying this eating disorder; such as the propensity to overindulge in sugar or white flour.
The process of becoming a BED sufferer is very subtle and cunning. Nobody can blame someone for loving to eat. After all, we were all physically and chemically made to enjoy the food we eat. Food is a necessity for survival. It is the very reason nature made us enjoy our food. However, the development of an eating disorder such as BED happens rather innocently, within the context of this need and normality, except that food was used other than to satiate hunger. It was used to satiate all ill feelings such as anger, shame, guilt, and depression. Therefore, the likelihood of developing this disorder would be present should you or your loved one experience the following:
• Low self-esteem and a lack of confidence – Usually caused by body image issues such as being obese and or recollections of having been teased for food behavior and or obesity/being underweight.
• Depression or anxiety
• Feelings of stress, anger, boredom, or loneliness
• Dissatisfaction with your or your loved one’s body and feeling under pressure to be thin
• Stressful or traumatic events in your or your loved one’s past
• Genetic predisposition or family related history to eating disorders
• Lower levels of dopamine in the brain as opposed to those without BED
There are a number of characteristics that identify if a person is a Binge Eater/ BED sufferer. These are as follows:
• Body weight varies from normal, mild, and eventually to severely obese.
• Weight gain may or may not follow BED. Though there is an intimate connection between excessive weight gain and BED, not everyone who is overweight suffer from BED.
• Seeking relief through food from intensely negative feelings such as shame, anxiety, fear, anger, and worthlessness.
• Co-occurring depression due to isolation, moodiness, and irritability.
• Feeling disgusted about their own bodies as a result of being teased about it in the past.
• Peace-keeping as a result of a desire to avoid conflict.
• Thought patterns of the Binge Eater/ BED sufferer:
i) All / Nothing thinking
ii) A strong need to be in control
iii) Difficulty expressing needs and feelings
• Evidence of binge eating such as the sudden disappearance of a large quantity of food in a short period of time and finding packets, containers, and wrappers of food around the house or in the rubbish bin – indicating that a great amount of food was consumed.
• Secretive food behaviors such as isolating to eat/ eating alone (for instance, in the car), hiding, stealing, and hoarding food.
• Disruption of normal meal times or eating outside of mealtimes.
• Extreme dieting to control the binges.
• Periods of uncontrollable impulsive eating to the point of physical discomfort and distress such as diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, heartburn, and even cardiac arrest.
• Scheduling special times for food and making special arrangements in the day to cater to a binge session.
With proper therapy, counselling, life-coaching, and a commitment to live a structured life, BED can be treated. It is important to get assessed for nutritional deficiencies and have a fully balanced diet alongside a healthy lifestyle to replace the food-obsessed mentality of this disease. At Solace Sabah, we have a program specifically designed for you or your loved one. Upon entry, you or your loved one will be assessed for any illnesses that may have resulted from BED. Once you or your loved one are well enough, treatment will commence. You or your loved one will learn how to live free from this disease and conduct your lives in much happier ways – to live for life!