Health and Wellness

Is the Need for Binge Eating Disorder Treatment Underplayed?

Since its addition to the DSM – V (the official list of mental health and behavioral disorders) in 2013, binge eating disorder has received more attention than in the past. However, it’s not widely known outside clinical experts that binge eating disorder is actually the most common eating disorder in the United States. The total number of people in the country who need binge eating disorder treatment may be as many as 2.8 million, including men, women, and adolescents of all races and genders. The important question considering that the disorder was only recently officially recognized is:

Are people paying enough attention to the need for binge eating treatment?

More People Recognize Other Eating Disorders

When eating disorders are portrayed in the movies and TV, binge eating disorder is nowhere to be seen most of the time. Even documentaries and news shows, when doing a story on eating disorders, normally don’t mention BED. Instead, the conversation goes to more dramatic eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa, with the extreme weight loss it can come with, and bulimia nervosa, with the self-induced vomiting that accompanies that disorder, are normally what are discussed.

Of course, those disorders are serious mental health conditions and should not be ignored. However, because its symptoms are less well understood, binge eating disorder recovery can often go underserved. This means millions of people potentially are not getting critical mental and physical healthcare that they need.

What Does Binge Eating Disorder Mean?

Binge eating disorder is a behavioral disorder in which an individual had episodes of eating large amounts of food in a short period of time. This is usually done alone or in private, and normally away from regular mealtimes. While people without the disorder will overeat from time to time (such as at Thanksgiving dinner), BED causes these binge eating sessions to be both regular and compulsive. Over time, the brain becomes dependent on the releases of dopamine and serotonin (“feel-good” chemicals that the brain creates as pleasure rewards) and the binges become involuntary.

Because the amounts of food eaten tend to be large and the types of food are unhealthy, binge eating disorder recovery must take into account the health needs associated with obesity.

Physical Symptoms Requiring Binge Eating Treatment

For many people, eating disorders are associated with a refusal to eat, purging behaviors like vomiting or laxative abuse, and extreme thinness. Because of this perception, it might be confusing for some that binge eating disorder treatment normally focuses on (aside from the behavioral therapy) addressing the physical consequences of obesity.

It’s important to note that not every obese or overweight person has BED, and not every BED sufferer is obese.

Some of the physical health risks associated with binge eating disorder include:

  • Heart disease
  • Hardened arteries
  • Sleep apnea
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort ranging from IBS to constipation
  • High cholesterol
  • Liver disease
  • Anemia
  • Diabetes type II

BED also carries a higher percentage of co-occurring psychiatric diseases such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive Disorder

While all these physical symptoms are commonly treatable, the continuation of binge eating episodes without specialized binge eating disorder treatment can slow the recovery down. It’s important to coordinate binge eating disorder recovery between a specialized facility (inpatient and outpatient programs are both effective) and your doctor. In some cases, a family practitioner may not be aware of the acute symptoms of BED so, it’s best to contact specialized treatment experts as well.

BED Is Serious, But Doesn’t Get the Attention It Requires

Even though it’s the most common eating disorder, BED wasn’t recognized formally by the psychological community until 2013. It will take time for the rest of the world to catch up to the DSM-5, as currently BED is dismissed as “overeating,” leading to an underserved population that numbers in the millions. If you or a loved one suspects the binge eating disorder is a problem, don’t wait. Reach out to your doctor or a qualified specialist to get on the road to binge eating recovery.