It is estimated that 8,4 milliards of people are suffering from an eating disorder worldwide.1 Anorexia might be the most popular eating disorder, but actually only occurs in 14 of 1000 in females (2 of 1000 in men). Binge eating disorder (BED) is the one with the most sufferers, even though most people don´t even know it exists. Around 28 of 10000 females suffer from binge eating (10 out of 1000% in men). That´s twice the amount of anorexia patients.² But still binge eating is not taken serious enough yet – even by doctors.
What is binge eating
BED got mentioned as a specified eating disorder in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) for the first time 2013 even though they already started to ascertain the symptoms at the end of the 20th century.
Just like Bulimia patients (and some anorexia patients), the people concerned suffer from perseverative binge – episodes. The frequency of these episodes is at least once a week over the last three months. But other than in bulimia or anorexia no compensating behaviour is used. (Click here to learn more about bingeing and compensating behaviours in anorexia or bulimia). Because of the high amounts of food, that is consumed within these binges (up to 10.000 kcal), the sufferers are most likely to show weight gain. Furthermore the eating disorder is characterised of at least three of the following aspects:
- eating a higher amount of food in shorter time than other comparable people
- eating until a very uncomfortable state of fullness
- eating even though you are not hungry yet
- eating alone
- the feeling of disgust, guilt and shame after eating
- experiencing a loss of control around food³
It is important to stress, that overeating is automatically a binge-episode. The people concerned really suffer under these episodes. Which leads to the symptoms and comorbidities of BED:
Symptoms of BED
- eating large amounts of food within little time
- feeling of guilt, disgust, depression, shame, social delimitation
- skipping meals
- no hunger/fullness cues, obesity/rapid weight gain
- unbalanced hormone system
- digestive/gut issues
- diabetes mellitus, lipid metabolism disorder
- mood disorders, tiredness, restlessness
- Joint damage, gout
Causes of BED
Binge eating disorders are usually caused by more than just one factor. Eating disorders are mental disorders, so especially things like trauma, low self esteem, problems with handling their emotions or even depression can cause it. Anyways a risk factor might be obesity in early child hood and because of that the possible experienced devaluation due to their weight and appearance. 4
Is it possible to jump from anorexia straight into binge eating?
Especially when extreme hunger is experienced in anorexia or bulimia recovery it is feared, that the people affected are developing binge eating disorder. Binge eating is – as I mentioned before – a mental illness, just like eating disorders in general. When starving or purging is no longer used as a tool to cope with the underlying issues, eating can become a ritual of comfort. So, without spreading fear: Yes, it is possible to go from anorexia to bulimia or binge eating disorder. But it is normal to not be able to listen to your hunger und fullness cues after a period of restriction. You are more likely to experience extreme hunger rather than binge eating.
It is important to understand, that eating disorders aren´t solved by eating more, eating less pr healthier, working out or stopping to purge. In recovery it is important to focus on improving the mental health and mindset. I encourage you to seek professional help, however not everyone has access to it. Do researches about self-help, look out for mental health blogger, talk to your friends and family and find helpful strategies to cope with emotions. Maybe – if you have the resources, take part in a coaching program.
treatment and help
Binge eating disorder often involves both – eating disorder and weight concerns. On one side, eating disorder professionals believe, it is best treated by traditional eating disorder approaches. By improving self esteem, body acceptance and treating underlying psychological problems, binge-episodes are reduced and by the time the weight concerns will decrease from itself. On the other side, obesity experts maintain their opinion, that the weight issues should be solved first to improve their physical condition as well as their mental health state.
Regarding to this, I want to say once again, that binge eating disorder is a mental illness, not a food or weight problem. Not everyone suffering from BED is overweight and needs to lose weight. Anyways it can be helpful to work together with a dietitian, to learn the basics of gentle nutrition.
Some of my favourite Instagram accounts about binge eating:
- Lauren | intuitive eating coach
- Ryann | Food Freedom Therapist
- Colleen Christensen, RD
- Lily Redding, MSc Nutrition
- Brid | Food and Body Coach
If you are suffering from binge eating, I want you to know, that you are not alone in this. Nothing is wrong with you and please don´t be ashamed. I am convinced, that you will be completely binge free, at some time again, so keep your head up. Recovery is a journey and setbacks are part of it.
1 Cf. Statista: Psychische Gesundheit – Anteil der Weltbevölkerung mit Essstörungen nach Geschlecht bis 2017 | Statista, Online verfügbar unter: https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/1078973/umfrage/anteil-der-weltbevoelkerung-mit-essstoerungen-nach-geschlecht/.
² Cf. BZgA: Wie häufig sind Essstörungen? | BZgA Essstörungen (bzga-essstoerungen.de)
³ Cf. Herpertz, Stephan/u.a. (Hrsg.): Handbuch Essstörungen und Adipositas, Berlin, Heidelberg, GERMANY: Springer Berlin / Heidelberg, 2015, S.26f.
4 Cf. Binge-Eating-Störung: Ursachen, Symptome & Diagnostik – Schön Klinik (schoen-klinik.de)