Binge eating disorder can often go undetected for long periods of time because it is a condition characterized by shame, denial and secrecy. Being open about it is always the first step to its diagnosis. This makes diagnosis of this particular eating disorder challenging in most cases. Binge eating diseases are often discovered as a by the way by doctors when handling patients who come forward with weight-related health problems, or mental conditions such as anxiety or depression.
If a doctor suspects the presence of binge eating disorder, physical examination and evaluation of the patient’s medical history is always the next step. The doctor will use a number of diagnostic tests, such as urine and blood tests, and other lab-related tests to rule out any physical factors that might be the cause of the symptoms. Medical consequences brought about by eating disorders, such as liver functioning and digestive enzyme levels, can also be detected through these tests.
Psychologists or psychiatrists, or any other medical professionals who have specialized in mental illnesses, may also be involved in the diagnosis of binge eating disorder. They can use special assessment tools and interviews to detect the condition in a patient.
Treatment for binge eating disorder
The fact that binge eating disorder is often kept as a secret by many people makes treatment very challenging. What makes it worse is that it is not an easy condition to detect, and anyone can successfully hide it even from the people closest to him or her. This is mostly because of the shame and embarrassment that is often associated with eating disorders.
The treatment plan for binge eating disorder should be flexible enough to effectively deal with different cases. The main purpose of the treatment is to enable the victim to regain control over his or her eating habits. Here are certain treatments that are commonly used:
- Psychotherapy - This treatment involves a kind of personal counseling that is meant to positively impact the behavior and thinking of the person with binge eating disorder. Cognitive therapy deals with the thinking while behavioral therapy focuses on the patient’s behavior. It involves practical techniques that develop healthy attitudes toward weight and food, and changing the way the patient handles tough situations.
- Medication - Lisdexamfetamine is a drug that FDA approved for the treatment of binge eating disorder. It is the first to be approved, and it reduces the binge eating episode attacks. It comes with a number of side effects like lack of sleep, dry mouth, jittery feelings and increased heart rate. In severe cases, the drug can trigger heart attacks, stroke and psychiatric problems. Topiramate, an anti-seizure drug, can also be used in some cases. Its side effects include having difficulty speaking, memory loss, tingling sensations in toes/fingers and sedation.
- Family and group therapy - Letting your family members know about your condition and allowing them to help is a great step towards recovery. Group therapy is another way to facilitate the treatment process especially if the causes are psychological or mental. Here you can freely share common problems and experiences, while openly discussing concerns and feelings that you can relate with.
- Nutrition counseling - You can consult a nutritional expert on how to restore your normal eating habits and learn the importance of a balanced diet and nutrition.
Ways to avoid a binge eating relapse
It will take a bit longer, after recovery, to completely master how to manage your eating habits. A binge eating relapse is when a person slides back to the disorder again during or after the recovery process. Up to 50 percent of people with eating disorders experience these relapses during treatment, especially during stressing situations.
However, having a relapse does not mean that the treatment is not working and that you should give up. It can actually be a chance to learn and see where you went wrong. It can enable you to be well-prepared for the next time you experience a situation that triggers the binge eating. Here are a number of steps that should help you stay away from a relapse:
- Be willing to put time and effort: Sticking to your new healthy eating habits will probably require more time and effort than treatment. Behavioral change is not easy and it will require a lot of work and sustainable effort. It however becomes easier and normal with practice.
Look out for the warning signs: You should always know the warning signs and be on the lookout for them. If you see any of the following general warnings then you are probably slipping to your old habits:
- If you start worrying about your weight all the time and can’t resist the scale and mirrors
- If suddenly family, work and life in general become overwhelming
- Feeling guilty and ashamed of the way you eat
- Trying to eat secretly
- Keeping your eating habits from your doctor
- Make a plan: You can come up with a plan with your doctor, even while still in treatment, on how to avoid relapses. You can create a plan together on how to overcome the triggers of your binge eating. You can include a food journal to help you keep track of your eating.
- Keep triggers out of your sight: Try not to expose yourself to foods that you know triggered your previous episode of binge eating. Avoid the foods that you badly crave and avoid where they are found or sold. If donuts triggered your last episode and you always pass by a donut shop on your way to work or school, change the route if you can’t resist the temptation.
- Never let one setback pull you down: You might fall into temptation once in a while and end up overeating. You should not let that get you down and end up with a relapse. You should instead get back immediately to your normal eating plan. That is just a slip that you should use to get back on track stronger than before.
- Avoid skipping meals: Skipping meals will only worsen the situation since you will be too hungry during your next meal and end up overeating. Try to always eat at the regular times and take healthy filling snacks like carrot sticks or cheese with you when you are away from home.
- An occasional treat won’t do you harm: After treatment, you can always learn to eat normally again. When this happens, there will be no need to avoid every piece of chocolate or cookie that comes your way for the rest of your life. Having an occasional treat will remind you of how important it is to stick to your daily diet. No food should be riskier or safer than the other if you moderate how you eat them.
If you are craving for a chocolate or cookie, you can have it but try not to eat them at home. Try to buy a limited portion and not pile up a stock in your fridge.
Even with medical help, individual power to heal plays a major role in the recovery process of binge eating disorder. The commitment and will power that you put into the treatment will determine whether you recover or not and how long your recovery will take.