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What is Binge Eating?
What is Binge Eating?
A binge eating incident is defined as the consumption of a large amount of food within a discrete period of time, accompanied by a sense of loss of control over eating (1). Experts have come to an agreement that loss of control means that
- one cannot stop eating
- or control what food they are eating
- or how much quantity is being eaten.
However, there is no consensus on what is a large amount and also the length of time the binge eating episodes go on. These factors vary widely depending on the individual.
What are the criteria to establish binge eating disorder?
The binge eating incident is characterized by
- Eating large amounts of food in say two-hour period which another person would not eat in that period of time under similar circumstances.
- A feeling that they lack control. They cannot stop what they are eating and how much they are eating.
- Eating hurriedly and mostly alone because they are self-conscious about the excess amount, they are consuming.
- Eating when they are not really hungry and not stopping till they are feeling discomfort because of fullness.
- Feeling ashamed, guilty and depressed once they are done with eating. Over eating causes them a lot of distress.
- Usually these episodes occur on an average 2 times a week for about 6 months.
- Binge eating is not accompanied by behaviour such as purging, fasting or excessive exercise. It does not occur only when a person is having eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. (Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) (1)
How do you assess someone has binge eating disorder?
Several methods can be used to assess binging eating disorder. The different ways to evaluate the disorder are
- clinical interviews
- self-reports which make use of questionnaires and food diaries
- observation of eating behaviour in the laboratory.
Presently clinical interview by a trained professional is the most preferred assessment technique. It gives the opportunity to learn from the affected person what key terms such as what exactly “large amounts” and “loss of control” mean to that individual. Binge eating has to be treated as a very individualized situation and cannot be generalized.
Binge eating is like an addiction
Binge eating is related to both obesity and psychiatric disorder. It is well known that obesity is linked to several non-communicable diseases and psychosocial outcomes. It is a chronic disorder and it keeps fluctuating. Among the eating disorders that exist binge eating disorder in particular is linked to addiction given certain features of the disorder, for example compulsive eating, excess consumption even after knowing the unpleasant results, and lack of self-control over eating pattern (2).
It was earlier thought that only adults are affected by binge eating disorder but recent studies have shown that there is evidence that it can start in childhood and adolescence too (3).
Once a person is diagnosed with binge eating disorder they need to be treated and they can be helped to overcome this disorder. It can be done through behavioural weight control program or by undergoing an eating disorders treatment.
- Marcus, M.D., Kalarchian, M.A. and Levine, M.D. (2005) Binge Eating. In: Caballero, B., Allen, L. and Prentice, A. (eds). Encyclopaedia of Human Nutrition. Elsevier Academic Press. Pp 80-85.
- Gearhardt, A. N., White, M. A. and Potenza, M. N. (2011). Binge eating disorder and food addiction. Current drug abuse reviews, 4(3), 201–207. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3671377/
- Federico Amianto, F., Ottone, L., Daga, G.A. and Fassino, S. (2015) Binge-eating disorder diagnosis and treatment: a recap in front of DSM-5. BMC Psychiatry. (15) https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-015-0445-6