It is very normal for anyone to overeat once in a while. However, when you start overeating on a daily basis and it starts getting out of control, it is probably time to visit a doctor and get checked for binge eating disorder. It is basically a medical complication that makes you want to eat all the time. Most people who suffer from binge eating disorder tend to feel embarrassment or guilt, but the only way to fight it is by being open about it. Here are the three main features that characterize this disorder:
- Binge eating that comes in frequent, recurrent episodes
- A feeling of being upset or extremely depressed after a binge episode
- The absence of any regret or desire to compensate for the binge, such as by working out, fasting, or vomiting
Causes of Binge Eating Disorder
Researchers have yet to pinpoint the actual causes of binge eating disorder, but they have been able to find factors that contribute to its development. It seems to be triggered by a number of biological, psychological, and environmental factors, as enumerated below:
i. Psychological risk factors: Binge eating disorder has been strongly connected to depression. Many people who’ve suffered from this disorder have been found to be depressed or have had a history of depression. Others have trouble controlling or managing their emotions or expressing their feelings. Loneliness, body dissatisfaction, and low self-esteem have also been said to be contributors.
ii. Social and cultural factors: People who are overweight may experience social pressure to lose weight, and the stress that follows fuels their emotional eating. People who undergo verbal or physical abuse, or were sexually abused as children, are also at a higher risk of developing binge eating disorder. As well, parents who reward or bribe their children with food increase their chances of developing binge eating disorder.
iii. Biological factors: Studies have shown that there are biological conditions that increase an individual's risk of developing binge eating disorder. One of these conditions is when the part of the brain that regulates appetite (the hypothalamus) fails to send correct messages about satiety or hunger. Eating disorders can also be genetically transmitted, and it is also possible for binge eating disorder to run from parents to their children. Finally, low production of serotonin in the brain may also be a major contributor to eating disorders.
iv. Mental imbalances: Some mental disorders have also been linked to binge eating disorder. A big number of people who have been diagnosed with eating disorders have been found to be depressed at the time or have had a history of depression. Although it’s still unclear how these two are related, studies have shown that mental factors such as boredom, sadness, anxiety, and other negative emotions can lead to eating disorders. Other psychological issues like impulsive behavior have also been found to be common among cases of eating disorders.
v. Side Effects of Medications: Binge eating disorder may at times be a result of a side effect of certain medications. These medications may interfere with one’s ability to feel full or may increase one's appetite, leading to overeating.
vi. Family encouragement: Some people grow up in families in which overeating is encouraged, making it seem normal. This kind of environment may lead to overeating disorders. Food being used as a reward or bribe in some families may also lead to overeating as a way to have fun and pleasure or relieve stress.
vii. Dieting: A lot of individuals who have developed binge eating disorder are often found to have had a history of dieting. The pattern of frequent dieting may even date back to childhood in some cases. Restricting calories or dieting can sometimes bring about an urge in a person to overeat as compensation, especially after negative comments or emotions due to being underweight.
viii. Age: Binge eating disorder is common in young adults who are in their early 20s or late teens. Although anybody can be affected by verbal abuse, people in these age groups tend to overreact to negative comments about their weight from their peers. This may lead to insecurities and stress that are then relieved by overeating. Similarly, young people can be greatly influenced by the attitudes and reactions of their parents to their own weight.
ix. Traumatic events in the past: Traumatic events in their past may at times trigger binge eating disorder in some people. These may be sexual abuse, family or relationship issues, neglect, and physical or emotional abuse, among others.
x. Cultural pressure: Some cultures may view certain body shapes as either attractive or not attractive. For example, in western culture, the media has encouraged the notion that thin or slender women look more attractive than women with thicker bodies. On the other hand, other cultures consider full-figured women more attractive. This cultural pressure may cause psychological conflicts and insecurities in individuals, leading to eating disorders.
xi. Body Image Disorders: This is a condition in which an individual develops a distorted view of his or her body. Image disorders such as muscle dysmorphia, where a person becomes obsessed with huge muscles, may lead to eating disorders.
Risks Associated with Binge Eating Disorder
Psychological problems such as anxiety and depression are always associated with binge eating disorder. If binge eating continues for a long time, these feelings can get worse. Weight gain is the most common physical effect associated with binge eating and can lead to obesity. Obesity can put one at risk of developing more serious or even life-threatening health conditions. These include:
- High Blood Pressure - Excessive body weight that is brought about by binge eating can lead to an individual developing high blood pressure. This condition can lead to life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks or strokes if it continues for a long period of time.
- High cholesterol - Cholesterol is fat that helps the body in its functions. However, too much of it in the body can lead to health complications such as heart attacks, strokes, and thickening of the artery walls (atherosclerosis). Binge eating can increase cholesterol in your blood.
- Cancer - Binge eating disorder can contribute to the development of some types of cancer such as bowel and breast cancer.
- Diabetes - This is a health complication whereby your blood sugar level becomes abnormally high. This is a long-term condition that may require medication for the rest of your life.
- Depression - As much as depression is one of the factors that contribute to binge eating disorder, the psychological disturbance can get worse during binge eating. An individual’s mental health may deteriorate further due to low-self-esteem brought about by being overweight.
- Osteoarthritis - This is a condition that brings pain and joint stiffness. People who are overweight have higher chances of developing this condition due to the excess pressure exerted by the weight on their joints.
Other complications that can be brought about by binge eating are:
- Poor social life
- Bipolar disorder
- Anxiety and depression
- Poor quality of life
- Problems in the workplace and social occasions
- Problems in one's personal life
Binge-eating disorder is a problem that can be fixed and should not cause embarrassment or panic. Talking about it with family members, close friends, and medical experts is a big step towards recovery and one's happiness in general.