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Binge Eating Disorder

Food consumption is not perceived by everyone as a way of meeting basic biological needs but as a way to cope with emotional difficulties, which in turn, can cause negative emotions.

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), in Binge Eating Disorder there are recurrent episodes of binge eating. A binge eating episode is characterized by the following:

  • Eating in a discrete period of time such as over a 2-hour period, an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
  • Sense of loss of control while eating.
  • Eating rapidly.
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.
  • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry.
  • Eating alone, without the presence of others because of the shame people feel about the amount of food they consume.
  • Feelings of disgust, sadness and guilt after an episode.

Binge eating episodes must occur at least once a week for three months in order to be diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder. In addition, the types of foods that tend to be consumed during these episodes are the so-called “comfort foods”, foods that provide immediate physical and emotional pleasure which are usually high in calories, sugar and fat (Spence, 2017).

What is the relationship between binge eating episodes and emotions?

Research findings reveal that the majority of people with Binge Eating Disorder have experienced at least once a comorbid psychiatric disorder, with mood disorders and anxiety disorders being among the most common (Hudson et al., 2007; Javaras et al., White & Masheb, 2009).

More specifically, depressive emotion is the most common emotion under investigation in relation to binge eating episodes. Numerous studies have shown that there is a correlation between depressive emotions and binge eating episodes, and that when depressive symptoms are increased the severity of binge eating episodes is increased as well. (Dingemas, Danner & Parks, 2017). Binge eating, in turn, can cause negative emotions with sadness, shame, guilt, and frustration being among the most common. This creates a vicious circle that the sufferers often find it difficult to recognize it in order to proceed with treatment.

Apart from the sadness, other emotions such as feelings of despair, feelings of helplessness, irritability and feelings of inadequacy have been studied and found to be correlated and more specifically to precede a binge eating episode. Zeek et al. (2011) found that the emotions that best characterize these episodes are anger, frustration and the feeling that someone has been hurt or the feeling of loneliness.

Regarding stress, people with Binge Eating Disorder report that they experience more stressful events and that they find it difficult to cope with the negative components of stress. In addition, De Young et al. (2014) in their research found that people with Binge Eating Disorder, on days when their negative emotion was reduced and their positive emotion was elevated, reported fewer binge eating episodes.

In addition to the emotional level, individuals have difficulties in their daily lives, in their interpersonal relationships as well as in their work environment.

So, how do we help ourselves if we recognize the above symptoms as our own?

  • The first step is to become aware that the above situation is bothering us and reducing our functionality. Thus, once this first realization has taken place we are more likely to be led to seek therapy for the disorder, cultivating understanding for ourselves and freeing ourselves from the guilt that may accompany the situation. The treatment can be either in the form of medication or in the form of psychotherapy or combination.
  • Among the psychotherapeutic approaches that are suitable for this disorder, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be very effective. More specifically, the basis of this treatment is that 1) specific thoughts and attitudes regarding the importance of weight and body image, 2) affects how we feel about our body and our self-worth and 3) these beliefs can lead to restrictive diets which in turn can lead to binge eating episodes (Grilo, 2017).
  • A very important aspect is the relationship of the person suffering with the mental health specialist. Experts create the appropriate psychological atmosphere which is characterized by empathy, cooperation and acceptance. In the first phase, experts explain to people who suffer the symptoms of the disorder, how they experience it and help them to identify problematic habits related to binge eating through self-observation methods and support them in establishing new healthy eating habits (Fairburn, 2008).

Binge Eating Disorder is undoubtedly a difficult situation that the person experiences and for this reason early diagnosis and intervention of the disorder is needed.

 

Eleni Theofili, Clinical Psychologist MSc
PSYCHIS OMMA CLINIC TZERANI
1 Pentelis Ave., Nea Penteli
210 8044332/210 8047624
info@tzeranis.gr

 

REFERENCES

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Feeding and Eating Disorders. In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Feeding and Eating Disorders. In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.

Dingemans, A., Danner, U., & Parks, M. (2017). Emotion regulation in binge eating disorder: A Review. Nutrients, 9(11), 1274. doi:10.3390/nu9111274

Fairburn, C.G. Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Eating Disorders. New York, NY: Guildord Press:2008.

Grilo, C. M. (2017). Psychological and behavioral treatments for binge-eating disorder. The  Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 78(Suppl 1), 20-24. doi: 10.4088/jcp.sh16003su1c.04

Grilo, C. M. (2017). Psychological and behavioral treatments for binge-eating disorder. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 78(Suppl 1), 20-24. doi: 10.4088/jcp.sh16003su1c.04

Hudson, J. I., Hiripi, E., Pope, H. G., & Kessler, R. C. (2007). The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Biological Psychiatry, 61(3), 348-358. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.03.040

Hudson, J. I., Hiripi, E., Pope, H. G., & Kessler, R. C. (2007). The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Biological Psychiatry, 61(3), 348-358. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.03.040

Spence, C. (2017). Comfort Food: A Review. International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, 9, 105-109. doi: 10.1016/j.ijgfs.2017.07.001

Zeeck, A., Stelzer, N., Linster, H. W., Joos, A., & Hartmann, A. (2010). Emotion and eating
in binge eating disorder and obesity. European Eating Disorders Review.
doi:10.1002/erv.1066

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