Binge eating is a form of an eating disorder that is classified as an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). The person usually manifests a behavior of overeating until it makes them feel uncomfortably full. People with EDNOS are often obese, but the disorder may affect any person of different weight. Binge eating as EDNOS is classified under the Fourth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Individuals with this type of eating disorder may manifest the symptoms of bulimia nervosa minus the purging behavior commonly seen in it like self induce vomiting and using laxatives in losing weight.
Characteristics of EDNOS
People with binge eating disorder has often been referred to as compulsive over-eaters, emotional eaters, or food addicts. About 30% of individuals seeking treatment for obesity have binge eating disorder. Obesity, however, is not a criteria for EDNOS. There is also a higher risk for individuals with a history of physical and sexual abuse, low extreme and extreme shyness to develop EDNOS.
While binge eating is often associated with other eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia nervosa, the condition fails to meet the criteria for appropriate diagnosis under these two eating disorders. EDNOS is often seen in 40% of patients seeking treatment eating disorders. It is also present among people manifesting a distorted body image and resorting to unhealthy weight loss practices. Binge eating affects men and women equally and is most common during adolescence and adulthood.
What are the potential health risks with EDNOS
EDNOS can open the flood gate for the development of serious medical conditions like the following:
- Kidney failure
- Osteoporosis (brittle bone)
- Ruptured esophagus due to frequent vomiting
- Irregular heartbeat
- Infertility in both sexes
- Irregular menstrual cycle
Causes of EDNOS
The specific cause of EDNOS is unknown, but there are causative factors that are highly associated to binge eating disorder as follows:
- Psychological factors
- Negative emotional factors
- Biological factors
- Socio-cultural factors
There are also recognized risk factors for binge eating disorder that include sexual abuse, dieting, lack of self control, media and the society.
Symptoms of EDNOS
Binge eating usually manifests as a combination of the following symptoms:
- Feeling out of control when one eats
- Eating unusually large quantities of food
- Eating very fast
- Eating until one feels uncomfortable or until one can no longer take another bite
- Eating a lot, even when not hungry
- Feeling embarrassed about the quantity of food one eats
- Feeling disgusted, depressed or guilty about overeating
Prior to making a diagnosis for binge eating disorder, your doctor will first ensure that your symptoms are not indicative of bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa. Researchers often find it difficult to make an accurate diagnosis for EDNOS because its symptoms may often overlap with that of the other eating disorders and major depressive disorders. The current standard guidelines for diagnosing binge eating disorder is the Fourth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) that proposes the following diagnostic criteria.
- Repeated eating within a short time interval (usually two hours).
- Consumption of food quantities that are more than the regular dietary consumption under normal circumstances.
- The feeling of being out of control of one's appetite
- The act of eating fast until one feels uncomfortably full to the point of being ill.
- A marked feeling of distress after the binge eating episode
- Binge eating episodes take place two days a week and have been persistent for six months
- Binge eating behavior is not characterized by purging, fasting, and over-exercise as compensatory behavior.
- The absence of bulimia and anorexia diagnostic criteria for symptoms
Treatment for EDNOS
The treatment for EDNOS mainly focuses on binge eating behavior, compulsiveness with food, an inability to control food intake, and the use of food as a method of coping with anxieties and other underlying issues.
- Dialectic Behavior Therapy
The intervention introduces the development of a healthy mind and emotional control. The person also learns to skills of tolerating distressing conditions with various coping mechanisms. Interpersonal skills are also learned to divert unhealthy eating behavior.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
The therapeutic treatment is focused on managing the eating behavior and the adoption of healthy eating patterns. The person is also taught to disintegrate self esteem to body weight and shape. Collaborative treatment is also provided towards self acceptance with lifestyle counselling and learning various self monitoring strategies as relapse preventive measures.
- Behavioral Weight Control Treatment
The treatment focuses on introducing healthy lifestyle change and proper dietary measures that will not compromise health. The process helps binge eaters to attain a long term remission of their condition.
- Interpersonal Therapy
Interpersonal therapy provides binge eaters the ability to cope with relationships and interpersonal problems that might be encouraging their unhealthy eating behavior.
When to see a doctor
It is important to take someone with an EDNOS to a doctor to get an immediate medical intervention. People with binge eating disorder often keep their condition a secret. Others feel that it is normal to behave the way they do. There are different ways by which a person with a binge eating disorder may behave and if you recognize the above symptoms from someone you know that will likely indicate the disorder, make sure to get help immediately.
It is a big mistake to ignore the symptoms of EDNOS. While it may not fall under the most accurate diagnostic criteria for anorexia and bulimia, doctors view binge eating as the initial stage of a full blown destructive eating disorder. The existence of the abnormal behavior can lead to more serious health consequences that doctors want to prevent. People may not view binge eating as an abnormal eating behavior, but doctors always emphasize that eating disorders have psychological implications that can progress into a condition that may become difficult to treat.
In order to detect abnormal eating behavior, there are warning signs that can give an indication for the presence of the disorder. The common primary signs are the unusual inclination of a person to monitor food intake and weight. Binge eaters usually want to eat alone or hide their hoarding of foods for consumption. It is important therefore for family members to be vigilant whenever they suspect that their loved one is showing some indication of an eating disorder.
Self Help Initiatives for EDNOS
The following are helpful therapeutic suggestions for binge eating disorder:
- Make an appointment with a health professional to discuss your eating behavior.
- Seeing a nutritionist will help you recognize your healthy dietary requirements.
- Make healthy lifestyle changes and engage in productive social activities to develop positive self esteem and divert attention from eating.
- Seek for a counseling therapy
- Develop positive interpersonal skills to learn various forms of coping mechanisms
- Look for another diversion for anxiety instead of eating. Learn different relaxation techniques, take a walk or jog to clear your mind from the inclination to eat.
- Learn meditation techniques
- Keep a journal where you can express your thoughts and feelings. By expressing yourself in your journal you can help ease the burden of anxiety that can reduce your inclination to binge eat.
- Look for a support group that can help you overcome your binge eating.