Learn why binge eating is considered an eating disorder – and how HPA/LiveWell treats this unhealthy behavior.
This eating disorder is characterized by intense cravings for food that can occur any time. Sufferers feel ashamed of their uncontrollable eating habits and are usually secretive about them. Binge eating is often accompanied by a negative body image, and sufferers frequently use food to cope with stress and low confidence. People with binge eating disorder are most likely to be overweight or obese.
What causes binge eating?
Medical research has not uncovered a specific cause of this eating disorder. However, most clinicians (including the HPA/LiveWell staff members) believe eating disorders are caused by a combination of biological, psychological and social factors.
- Biological/psychological influences – Genetics does seem to play a role in eating disorders. People who are binge eaters – or struggle with other eating disorders – often come from families with a history of eating disorder, addiction or other psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, OCD and ADHD. Many people who are binge eaters have described a significant history of depression. Many who binge eat use this unhealthy behavior as a coping skill to manage the discomfort they feel.
- Social influences – Many people with eating disorders have low self-confidence, struggle with low self-esteem, are overweight and may have been bullied. Bullying can lead to self-loathing and increased feelings of depression and isolation.
Over time, the behaviors that lead to binge eating and other eating disorders may develop into coping skills. These people consistently use unhealthy behaviors to calm themselves or relieve stress.
In our LiveWell program – created specifically to treat eating disorders – our first treatment goal for patients who have binge eating disorder are to help them understand how the eating disorder “works” for them. Second, we guide them to replace unhealthy behaviors with new skills and healthy behaviors.
Our treatment approach includes one-on-one therapy as well as group therapy. This allows patients to connect with others who have shared experiences and understand their situation. This, in turn, can boost self-confidence and decrease isolation.
If you struggle with binge eating, it’s extremely important to reach out to an eating disorder specialist (such as HPA/LiveWell) for treatment. Occasionally, patients who have a history of binge eating disorder may develop other life-threatening eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa.
What are the signs and symptoms of binge eating?
Binge eating disorder is characterized by frequent and regular episodes of binge eating – the individual consumes a quantity of food with a calorie content that is much higher than a healthy meal or snack.
Other signs and symptoms may include (but are not limited to):
- Eating unusually large quantities of food in one sitting
- Eating when full or not hungry
- Eating until uncomfortably full
- Feelings of lack of control
- Feelings of self-loathing
- Feelings of isolation
If this eating disorder is not treated, persistent binge eating can result in serious medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure.
How do we treat binge eating?
Here at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, New York, we believe binge eating disorder requires a three-prong approach to treatment. To effectively treat this life-threatening illness, we address three fronts: medical, psychological and nutritional health.
Due to the medical complications – such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiac illness – it’s extremely important that patients be monitored by a primary care physician or physician specializing in clinical nutrition.
While it’s vital to treat any medical complications, the psychological aspects of the illness can be the most difficult to treat. In our LiveWell program – specifically created to combat eating disorders – we first seek to help our patients agree to change their eating disorder behaviors. This is a surprisingly challenging part of treatment! That’s why we use a technique called Motivational Interviewing to help our patients clarify the reasons they need to make changes in their lives.
Once patients agree to make some change, our clinicians can use a “toolkit” of other types of therapy. (This can include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and exposure therapy.) Every tool and technique we use is geared toward helping our patients change their thinking – and, ultimately, their behavior.
Finally, by involving our dietician – a specialist in eating disorders – our patients get help developing a customized meal plan with normal intake, so that they won’t need to binge. With guidance from our dietician, our patients can learn how to eat in a safe, healthful way for the rest of their lives.
Learn more about our LiveWell intensive outpatient treatment program to treat eating disorders. Call us today to begin your recovery!
If you are asking “what is binge eating,” you (or your loved one) may need help right away. With our LiveWell outpatient program, you remain in your own home and draw on the support of family and friends. Our LiveWell outpatient program provides individual, family and group therapy, as well as nutritional counselling and intensive outpatient treatment.
This approach to treatment gets results! Each treatment is as individual as each patient.