Discovering the indicators for Binge-Eating Disorder
WebMD defines Binge Eating Disorder (BED) as a condition in which you eat very quickly or in an out-of-control or mindless fashion when you’re not physically hungry. The threshold diagnostic test is if you’ve eaten like that at least once a week for at least three months in a row. It differs from bulimia in that binge eaters do not purge their binge foods by vomiting, using laxatives or excessive exercise.
BED is often associated with depression or childhood trauma, and it often runs in families. In the US, its incidence is estimated at between approximately 2-4% of the general population, with a skew towards women. Two-thirds of those with BED are obese, and women are more likely than men to have it.
However, I don’t think this comes close to telling the whole story. Look at these characteristics and see how many of them apply to you or to someone you know who is obese:
- You eat more food than other people do in the same situation.
- You eat much more quickly than normal.
- You feel like you can’t control how much you eat.
- You have an eating binge at least once a week for 3 months, on average.
- You overeat to a degree that makes you uncomfortably full or physically ill.
- You overeat regularly even when you’re not hungry.
- You eat alone or you hide secret foods so no one will see how much food you’re having.
- You feel upset or experience emotional distress after you binge.
- You feel guilty, disgusted, or depressed about your eating.
A subsequent update to WebMD’s entry for BED included the following symptoms:
- Frequent episodes of eating what others would consider an abnormally large amount of food
- Frequent feelings of being unable to control what or how much is being eaten
- Eating much more rapidly than usual
- Eating until uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food, even when not physically hungry
- Eating alone out of embarrassment at the quantity of food being eaten
- Feelings of disgust, depression, or guilt after overeating
- Fluctuations in weight
- Feelings of low self-esteem
- Loss of sexual desire
- Frequent dieting
I must have re-read these symptoms a few dozen times, trying to wrap my head around what they really meant to me personally. It was obvious that I ticked several boxes for this condition, but I had no idea what to do about it. I could derive a small amount of comfort from having finally identified what was happening with me, but I had no clear idea of how to go about recovering. I stumbled in the dark for awhile: I participated in online discussion and peer support groups; I listened to dozens of personal stories on the Overeaters Anonymous podcast; and I started looking around for some in-person support in my local area.