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Binge Eating and Overeating – Get the Facts

Binge eating disorder arises from a variety of factors, including family history, biological signals, long-term dieting, and most of all—psychological concerns.

Binge Eating and Overeating – Get the Facts


You just cannot stop. You eat one cookie, and then another. Or one potato chip, and then the rest of the bag. And you know it's not the best thing, and knowing that makes it part of the reason why you continue eating. Or just not caring.

Mindless eating can seem like binge eating, but there is a difference. Binge eating can be described as an out-of-body experience, with a dramatic, emotional high from binging on favorite foods. Mindless eating comes when you just keep eating, because you are distracted doing something else. There are a number of causes of binge eating, and there's primarily only one cause of mindless eating -and that's a lack of attention to what you are eating. Both binge eating and mindless eating can lead to the same thing that makes you gain weight -overeating.

Binge eating disorder arises from a variety of factors, including family history, biological signals, long-term dieting, and most of all -;psychological concerns. This type of disorder often begins in the late teens or early 20s, though it can develop at any age, largely arising from peer influence and media exposure.

The Top Causes of Binge Eating

People who have binge eating disorders typically also display the following characteristics:

Low self esteem
Lack of self confidence
Depression or Anxiety
Poor body image
Stressful or traumatic past events
Pressure to be thin
Perfectionism

Binge Eating Triggers

There are a variety of triggers that cause an episode of binge eating:

Stress
Boredom
Anger
Fear
Anxiety
Loneliness

Overall, binge eating disorder may present an individual with a way of coping with problems of identity and personal control.

We might argue that binge eating is simply our natural need to 'break the mold' when in the midst of diet. Our innate desire for independence, freedom and even a little rebel-mindedness every now and then can become 'stuffed' and hidden away during a diet. If you follow the rules 'perfectly' for an extended amount of time - there is a side of us that does need to break the rules every now and then.

Binge eating can also be an escape from personal awareness. Researchers from Harvard and Case Wester wrote about the predisposition of individuals who have binge eating disorder to suffer from "high standards and expectations, especially an acute sensitivity to the demands of others" and as a result they develop emotional distress when they feel they have fallen short.

Binge eating can serve as an escape from these unpleasant feelings of falling short. The mind gets narrower and avoids broad or meaningful thought - which can reduce normal inhibitions towards overeating, and further the 'escape'. The main problem with this is -it's a short term fix which is often followed by feelings of self-loathing and regret, or even disgust.

How to Stop Binge Eating

Research has used a variety of methods to help individuals who suffer from binge eating disorder, including meditation, treatment for depression and anxiety, and cognitive behavioral restructuring therapy.

Meditation

A six week study that used meditation to help improve mindfulness with regards to eating found that obese women decreased their binge eating frequency from 4 times per week down to 1.5 times per week by the end of the study. Their sense of control increased, and Beck Depression and Anxiety scores decreased significantly as well.

Medications

Using antidepressant and antianxiety medication has also helped individuals. Antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), have been shown to be modestly effective for reducing binge eating over the short term in individuals who have been diagnosed with binge eating disorder.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

A multidisciplinary, stepped-care treatment appears to be a helpful strategy for individuals who are ready to tackle their binge eating disorder head-on. One study used a web-based cognitive behavioral therapy for female patients with binge eating disorder, and they looked at the individuals self-reported measures of body dissatisfaction, physical health, mental health, self-esteem, quality of life, and social functioning.

The methods the researchers employed included techniques such as psycho-education, self-monitoring, thought restructuring, problem solving, and relapse prevention. After 21 therapy sessions, there were significant improvements in individuals' measurements of restraint, eating concern, shape concern, and weight concern.

 

References:

Roy E Baumeister, Todd E Heatherton. Binge Eating as Escape From Self-Awareness. Psychological Bulletin Copyright 1991 by the American Psychological Association~ Inc. 1991, Vol. 110, NO. 1, 86-108 0033-2909/91

Polivy, Janet, and C. Peter Herman. "Causes of eating disorders." Annual review of psychology 53.1 (2002): 187-213. Howard, Christine E., and Linda Krug Porzelius. "The role of dieting in binge eating disorder: Etiology and treatment implications." Clinical psychology review 19.1 (1999): 25-44.

Kristeller JL, Hallett CB. An Exploratory Study of a Meditation-based Intervention for Binge Eating Disorder. J Health Psychol. 1999 May;4(3):357-63. doi: 10.1177/135910539900400305.

Ter Huurne ED1, de Haan HA, Postel MG, van der Palen J, VanDerNagel JE, DeJong CA. Web-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Female Patients With Eating Disorders: Randomized Controlled Trial. J Med Internet Res. 2015 Jun 18;17(6):e152. doi: 10.2196/jmir.3946.

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