Binge Eating Disorder: Warning Signs and Symptoms

While most Americans have heard about common eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, most don’t realize that binge eating disorder is a separate psychological illness on the rise among people of all ages. Characterized by frequent episodes of eating excessive amounts of food, even without feeling hungry, binge eating disorder can result in an increased risk for several severe health conditions including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

While there are eating disorder treatment programs that have been specially designed to help those with binge eating disorder to recover, less is known about the condition than other more common types of eating disorders. If parents believe their children may have binge eating disorder, early intervention is key. Before families begin their search for eating disorder treatment centers, it is best to learn more about the common signs and symptoms associated with binge eating disorder.

While there are many similarities between binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating type anorexia nervosa, one of the biggest differences with this type of eating disorder is the fact that individuals do not engage in purging behaviors after consuming large amounts of food.

As with all eating disorder treatment,binge eating treatment programs are focused on the medical, physical and psychological aspects of treating the condition. Studies have shown that when an eating disorder recovery center includes both medical and psychiatric care, they are typically better suited to treat people with more complicated cases and/or co-occurring disorders; this could include patients struggling with binge eating disorder and substance abuse.

Binge Eating Treatment: Understanding Common Eating Disorders

Before 2013, binge eating disorder was only considered a subtype of other more common eating disorders. Now that it is formally recognized as a separate condition, binge eating treatment is better understood, with more options offered and more insurance coverage provided. While binge eating disorder has recently been defined as a separate disorder from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, each of these common conditions have some similarities. Before individuals and their loved ones can choose an eating disorder recovery program that is right for their needs, it is important to learn more about the different types of eating disorders and their symptoms.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a common eating disorder that is characterized by a lack of appropriate weight gain in young children and difficulty maintaining an appropriate weight according to age, height and stature. Additionally, people with this condition often have a distorted body image. Typically, those with anorexia nervosa tend to restrict the number of calories they consume and/or the types of food they are willing to eat. However, some people with anorexia nervosa will also engage in binge eating behaviors as well as purging behaviors, such as vomiting and excessive exercise.

While early signs of anorexia nervosa frequently begin during adolescence, the number of children and adults who have been diagnosed with the condition is on the rise. And while there is a common misconception that people with the disorder can easily be identified by an underweight appearance, studies have shown that those with a fuller body can also have anorexia nervosa. Treatment options for eating disorders like anorexia nervosa can typically be found in both outpatient facilities and residential treatment.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is another serious and very common eating disorder that has some similarities to binge eating disorder. This potentially life-threatening eating disorder is characterized by a recurring cycle of binge-eating and purging behaviors such as forced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, excessive exercise and fasting. Individuals with bulimia nervosa will typically binge large amounts of food during a short period of time with a feeling of lost control during the episode. They may feel shame or disgust after consuming large amounts of food and quickly turn to compensatory behaviors.

With bulimia nervosa, many do not show any outward signs that they have an eating disorder. In fact, in most cases, people with this condition actually maintain what most would consider a “normal” weight. However, if left untreated, bulimia nervosa has many serious health risks including impaired immune functioning, anemia, hormonal issues and cardiac arrest. Similar to anorexia nervosa, there are many eating disorder facilities across the country who have the tools necessary to help treat bulimia nervosa patients.

Binge Eating Disorder

While less well-known than anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder is actually the most common eating disorder found in the United States today. Characterized by a recurrent pattern of eating large amounts of food and the feeling that one has lost control during this time period, many individuals with this type of eating disorder often eat to the point of discomfort and feel shame, guilt and general distress after an episode. However, unlike bulimia nervosa, those with binge eating disorder do not regularly use compensatory methods or purging behaviors to counteract the binge eating.

For those considering binge eating treatment programs, some early warning signs of the disorder may include:

  • Feeling uncomfortable eating around others
  • Stealing or hoarding food
  • Frequent dieting and fluctuations in weight
  • Evidence of binge eating such as the disappearance of large amounts of food in a short period of time, empty wrappers found in their room, etc.
  • Extreme concern over body weight and body shape
  • Lack of control over the ability to stop eating, even when full
  • Eating alone out of embarrassment or disgust

Some of the greatest health consequences associated with binge eating disorder include obesity, heart disease, osteoarthritis and type 2 diabetes.

What Should Parents and Loved Ones Look for With Binge Eating Disorder?

The reasons for developing an eating disorder, like binge eating disorder, are different for each person. Some of the known causes of the condition include a genetic predisposition, social pressures and both cultural and environmental factors. Binge eating disorder is found among people of all ages and genders, as well as across all socioeconomic groups. Additionally, research suggests that binge eating disorder affects an equal number of men and women, unlike other common eating disorders that tend to affect women in larger numbers.

Additional Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorders

As families explore different treatment options for eating disorders like binge eating disorder, becoming familiar with common symptoms can help to find the right eating disorder recovery center to meet their specific needs.

Physical Symptoms

  • Always feeling tired and not sleeping well
  • Constipation
  • Feeling bloated or developing intolerance to certain foods

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Erratic behavior, including spending large amounts of money on food or shoplifting food
  • Substance abuse, self-harming or suicide attempts
  • Evading questions about diet, eating habits or weight
  • Hiding food wrappers or dishes around the home

Psychological Symptoms

  • Feeling preoccupied with food, eating, weight and body shape
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety, depression or irritability
  • Feelings of extreme shame or dissatisfaction surrounding one’s appearance
  • Experiencingextreme sadness, distress, guilt and/or anxiety after a binge eating episode

Eating Disorder Recovery: What Type of Treatment Options Are Available?

The mental health and medical risks associated with binge eating disorder can be very severe if left untreated. That is why early intervention is recommended whenever possible. Not only is it common for those with the condition to lose their self-confidence, but the lack of control associated with binge eating can quickly spill into other areas of life. In fact, it is very common for people who have been diagnosed with binge eating disorder to find they are facing dramatic ramifications in school, their career and close relationships with family and friends.

The effects of binge eating disorder can become amplified if an individual has one or more co-occurring disorders. For example, if a person is already working through common mental health issues like depression or substance abuse, it can be more difficult for them to understand or express their emotions, which could trigger more frequent and/or severe binge eating episodes.

Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder

Both outpatient eating disorder treatment and residential eating disorder programs are available for individuals who have been diagnosed with binge eating disorder. However, depending on the needs of each patient, one type of program may be more suitable than the other.

Residential Treatment

With residential treatment, patients will benefit from a controlled environment that is designed to help people break free from their ritualized and compulsive behaviors. These treatment options also offer a supportive environment, where patients can enjoy peer support as well as care from professional therapists and counselors that will help them navigate the emotional journey to recovery.

Patients in residential treatment also have the advantage of staying in a safe environment that is removed from outside triggers. Treatment is closely monitored by both mental health professionals and medical staff to ensure the safety of the client, during this time of healing.

Outpatient Eating Disorder Treatment

Outpatient treatment programs are designed to help individuals who are ready to take on the responsibility required to set personal goals and work toward them in their daily lives, but can still greatly benefit from group support and additional structure. This is an ideal treatment option for those stepping down from a residential treatment program or those who need less structured support.

The ability to take part in work, school or other day-to-day activities during daytime hours or weekends makes outpatient therapy a good choice for practicing newly learned coping skills and utilizing personal support systems. This type of treatment is flexible, typically more affordable and works to provide patients with relapse prevention and a gradual transition back into their daily life.

Evidence-Based Therapies

While choosing the right program is extremely important for those with binge eating disorder, it is also a good idea to be aware of the different therapy options available in these environments. The most common evidence-based therapies used to treat binge eating disorder include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Cognitive Remediation Therapy (CRT)
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Contact Monte Nido and Affiliates Today

At Monte Nido, individuals with binge eating disorder can benefit from proven treatment delivered by a tenured and compassionate team of professionals. Placing a defined focus on therapeutic, medical and psychiatric care, Monte Nido and our affiliates provide the highest level of care for those with eating disorders and co-occurring disorders in a safe, comfortable and home-like setting.

The facilities at Monte Nido have been designed to accommodate both residential patients and those interested in outpatient treatment. With a large and varied staff on-site, patients have access to fully recovered therapists, medical doctors, dietitians, yoga teachers and professional chefs.