Binge eating disorder (BED) is a newly recognized condition that has many similarities to bulimia nervosa. People with BED frequently eat huge quantities of food and feel that they have no control over their eating. Unlike bulimics, however, they don’t purge afterwards with vomiting or laxatives.
While most of us are guilty of overeating at some time or other, binge eaters have much more serious problems. In most cases, the disorder causes considerable distress to the people who suffer from it and is often accompanied by depression. At this time, scientists are not sure whether depression is a symptom of BED or an underlying cause of the condition. People do report that emotions such as anger, sadness, anxiety or boredom will trigger episodes of binge eating. Studies are currently being done on neurotransmitters and other brain chemicals to determine if they are linked to binge eating disorder.
The symptoms of BED include
• frequently eating an abnormally large amount of food
• feeling unable to control what or how much food is eaten
• eating more rapidly than usual
• eating until uncomfortably full
• eating large amounts of food, even when not hungry
• experiencing feelings of disgust, guilt or depression after overeating
• eating alone because of embarrassment at the quantity of food being eaten
WHO’S AT RISK?
Binge eating disorder occurs most often in people who are overweight and obese—with a BMI greater than 25—and it becomes more prevalent as body weight increases. Obese people with BED become overweight at an earlier age than those without the disorder and may suffer more frequent bouts of losing and regaining weight. However, it is not uncommon for people with normal, healthy weight to suffer from BED. It occurs slightly more often in women than in men and tends to appear in later years, affecting an older population than either anorexia or bulimia nervosa.
BED can be very difficult to distinguish from other causes of obesity. Because people with the disorder are embarrassed about their behavior, they work very hard to conceal their bingeing tendencies. Right now, there are probably thousands of people suffering from BED who are not properly diagnosed.
Perhaps the most distinctive diagnostic feature of the condition is the depression that accompanies it. Doctors look for overeating habits that establish an “out-ofcontrol” pattern and that are followed by feelings of anxiety, guilt and depression.