Eating disorders. It’s a heavy topic, and a lot of times people don’t want to talk about them. Having an eating disorder is incredibly personal and private, with many outsiders not knowing if a person has one. Most people know about anorexia and bulimia, but there is another eating disorder that very rarely gets any kind of attention: Binge Eating Disorder.
What is it?
Binge eating disorder the most common eating disorder in the United States, which may come as a shock considering how little attention it gets. The disorder is characterized by consuming large quantities of food in a short period of time, usually to the point of discomfort, and then experiencing extreme shame due to the food consumption without taking unhealthy measures (like purging) to counter the shame, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.
People who suffer from BED are more likely to experience a lack of control when eating, as well as feel incredibly embarrassed as they eat, sometimes choosing to only eat alone.
BED is not a new disorder, but it only recently became prominent with studies showing that the majority of eating disorders fall under binge eating, as opposed to Abstaining from eating (anorexia) or purging after eating (bulimia).
Who has it?
A 2007 study that interviewed over 9,000 Americans found that 3.5 percent of women suffer from Binge Eating Disorder. This is three times more prevalent than both anorexia and bulimia.
Binge Eating Disorder, like other eating disorders, usually begins in the late teens and early 20s, according to the Binge Eating Disorder Association. Even though this is the most common eating disorder, less than a third of those suffering from BED will get treatment.
Why does no one talk about it?
Part of the reason that awareness of Binge Eating Disorder is so low is because it is hard to see as a bystander. With other eating disorders, sufferers could visibly lose weight or become haggard looking. With BED, however, sufferers could show no change in weight or appearance. It is more of a mental condition, with guilt and shame occurring after every binge.
BED was only officially recognized as a psychological disorder in 2013, so many psychology text books are outdated and do not teach about it, making awareness very low.
What can I do about it?
There are many things you can do to help those suffering from Binge Eating Disorder and to increase awareness. First, you can know the signs that will signal if you or someone you know is struggling with BED:
- Recurrent episodes of Binge Eating
- Eating a larger amount of food than is normal in a short period of time
- Feeling intense shame or embarrassment after bingeing
- Feeling a lack of control over what or how much is eaten
If you or someone you know shows these symptoms, then it is important to get in contact with someone who can help. The National Eating Disorders Association has a toll-free confidence hotline that you can call at 1-800-931-2237.
You can also help by advocating for those with Binge Eating Disorder. Spreading awareness is a huge help towards getting more people involved and more people therapy if they need it, so simply talking about Binge Eating Disorder can help.
It’s important to know that each body is a good body, even if the person inside of it doesn’t see it that way. We can help ourselves and others who struggle with eating disorders by being a sympathetic ear and seeking treatment if necessary. A mental illness does not define you, and neither should Binge Eating Disorder.