Whoever started eating a box of chocolates and couldn’t stop until they reached the end of it? Or did it run back to the fridge very shortly after lunch? Or that you didn’t skip dessert even though your stomach was full?
Eating a lot, all the time, and generally high-calorie foods has become a very common habit these days.
After all, our easy access to hyper-palatable foods has become too great. Supermarket shelves are full of them; order them through the delivery app if they are outside our house.
However, to many people’s surprise, eating uncontrollably does not necessarily mean that the person has developed a binge eating disorder.
As you’ll discover in this article, there’s a difference between an eating disorder and just plain eating. So, continue reading to understand better.
What Is Binge Eating?
Binge eating is an eating disorder. When the person suffers from this problem, he has a total lack of control when eating. Most of the time, this behavior is accompanied by guilt and shame.
How To Identify Food Compulsion?
Who sets the criteria for the diagnosis of binge eating is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known by the acronym DSM.
According to the DSM-5, which is the manual currently in force, for the diagnosis of binge eating, the patient must present the following condition:
- Eating, in a given period (e.g., within every two hours), an amount of food that is larger than what most people would consume in the same period under similar circumstances.
- Feeling of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., feeling that you cannot stop eating or control what and how much you eat).
Binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:
- Eating more quickly than usual;
- Eat until you feel uncomfortably full;
- Eating large amounts of food in the absence of the physical sensation of hunger;
- Eating alone because you are ashamed of how much you are eating;
- Feeling disgusted with yourself, depressed, or very guilty afterward. Marked suffering due to binge eating.
In addition, these episodes must occur, on average, at least once a week for at least three months.
Also Read: Eating Balanced At All Meals Possible?
What Are The Impacts Of Binge Eating On A Person’s Life?
Binge eating can cause a series of negative consequences for a person’s health, both from a physical, emotional, and social point of view.
Impacts Of Binge Eating On Physical Health
By eating disproportionate amounts of healthy or unhealthy food, our bodies are burdened with both digestion and excess calories.
Therefore, a person with binge eating can become obese, although this does not always happen due to genetic factors or comorbidities such as bulimia. We’ll talk about it in one of the next topics.
When manifesting this disorder, the person tends to reduce their selectivity with food greatly. She literally eats everything in front of her.
This low selectivity can aggravate issues related to physical health since many food products do not have the nutrients the body needs and can even harm the body.
Therefore, it is common for people with binge eating to develop obesity, as we have already mentioned, and diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and other chronic diseases.
Impacts Of Binge Eating On Mental Health
The relationship between binge eating and mental disorders is quite delicate. After all, they can trigger and feed each other in a real vicious circle.
Was it difficult to understand? We can explain better.
People with depression and anxiety can develop binge eating. On the other hand, people with binge eating can also develop depression, anxiety, and other disorders.
It is quite common, when depressed and anxious, for people to seek food relief, as tasty products, especially hyper-palatable ones, cause a sudden discharge of dopamine in the brain.
Therefore, the person feels uncomfortable due to their mental disorder. When eating, your brain fills with dopamine, causing the sensation of pleasure and dampening the unpleasant emotion.
So for many people, it works like this: They feel anxious. To contain this anxiety, they open the bag of stuffed biscuits in the drawer and eat until the end.
After the momentary feeling of pleasure, they feel a bit of relief. However, soon this well-being passes, and they feel sad for eating the whole package.
Again, out of sadness, they seek comfort in other food, and so on. As you can see, this seesaw between negative emotions and the pleasure of food forms a vicious circle.
Impacts Of Binge Eating On Self-Esteem
People with binge eating often feel shame and guilt about their behavior around food. Often, they eat in secret. Thus, they avoid the eyes of others.
Difficulty controlling one’s behavior leads to a feeling of incapacity, incompetence, and lack of control. This undermines self-esteem, bringing a lot of suffering.
Impact Of Binge Eating On Social And Professional Life
In extreme cases, binge eating even affects social and professional life. Health problems are only part of the problem.
Often, the person feels shame and guilt. She tries to stay away from other people’s eyes, eats secretly, and hates falling out of control in front of friends or family.
Therefore, the person can isolate themselves, generating significant social distancing. This, in turn, harms mental health.
Impact Of Binge Eating On The Development Of Comorbidities
Faced with binge eating, many people develop psychiatric comorbidities such as bulimia and anorexia.
Among patients with binge eating disorder and bulimia, even quite worrying studies show an increase in the rate of suicidal ideation.
Therefore, binge eating already alerts the need for medical follow-up and treatment. The presence of comorbidities makes the picture even more dangerous.