The American Psychiatric Association currently recognizes only three categories of Eating Disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (for pathological eating behavior not meeting criteria for Anorexia or Bulimia).
Although binge eating disorder is not necessarily an “official” mental health-related disorder, it is just as devastating to those who suffer from it as those disorders that “made the cut” with the APA. To diagnose it, mental health providers refer to it in the third category of Eating Disorder NOS.
To those who suffer from binge eating disorder, these are just meaningless words. Their lives are dominated by food, many times to the point where they consider suicide as their only option to end their suffering. Every day is a battle in their war against over-eating, and every day they lose the battle. They consume very large quantities of food at one time to the point where they feel uncomfortably full. Many use food as a way to cope with, or block, feelings they don’t want to feel such as anger and fear.
They use food as a means of numbing themselves, of filling an emotional void in their lives such as loneliness. Food can be their way of coping with stress. To recover from a binge eating disorder, they must seek professional assistance from a therapist and/or in-patient recovery program that specializes in the treatment of eating disorders.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of the Binge Eating Disorder?
Among those suffering from a binge eating disorder, some of the signs and symptoms are visible, but most are not. These individuals are almost always morbidly obese. Weight gain is noticeable as is weight loss when the individual goes on a near-starvation diet that doesn’t work because it’s not nutritionally sound. A fluctuation in weight is common among obese sufferers of binge eating disorder.
Other signs and symptoms of this disorder go purposefully unseen. In binge eating disorder, sufferers feel out of control of their eating behavior. They have very low self-esteem and are disgusted with themselves for not being able to stop eating. A co-existing depressive disorder such as Major Depression or Dysthymia, and an anxiety disorder such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder are very common among those who suffer from eating disorders.
Which disorder existed first and caused the other is not only unknown, but also irrelevant since both conditions require mental health treatment.
Other signs and symptoms of this disorder include loss of sexual interest, hiding or hording food, a belief that life would be better if only they lost weight, having secretive eating habits, and avoidance of social situations where food will be present. Obese sufferers rarely let anyone else see them eat. They’re used to the stigma of being fat, believing (correctly) that others will criticize them if they eat just the smallest amount of food.
Drive-through fast food is a blessing for those who suffer from binge eating disorder. Rather than enter a restaurant where others will see them eating, these individuals use an “anonymous” drive-through where they can purchase and eat large quantities of food without being seen by restaurant patrons. Pizza and Chinese food deliveries accomplish the same purpose.
Are There Medical Complications of Binge Eating Disorder?
Absolutely, and as well, these complications could become life-threatening if the syndrome is not treated. Obesity causes numerous dangerous medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, liver and kidney problems, heart problems and high cholesterol.
In addition to problems caused directly from obesity, those with binge eating disorder often suffer from osteoarthritis due to poor nutrition, shortness of breath, and decreased mobility. All these medical conditions must be treated during the sufferer’s mental health treatment.
Binge eating disorder and the behaviors that accompany it are very hard on the heart, making it pump faster to insure blood flow. Eventually the heart simply gives out, and sufferers from this disorder die from cardiac arrest. This is a death that could have been avoided.