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When it is suspected a loved one may have an eating disorder, it is crucial to watch for the signs and symptoms so they can enter treatment at a binge eating treatment center and begin on the path to binge eating recovery. There are many symptoms besides the more obvious physical signs; individuals with binge eating disorder may exhibit a variety of mental, emotional and behavioral symptoms. Some symptoms may not even be apparent until an individual has entered eating disorder treatment. The first step in identifying possible symptoms of binge eating disorder is understanding what the disorder actually is.
What Is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating disorder is a serious mental health disorder where an individual will consume a large amount of food within a short period of time; at times the individual will feel unable to stop themselves from eating. During a binge episode, food consumption may become out of control and occurrences will often become more frequent. Over time, binge eating can lead to a variety of related health conditions as well as changes in mood and behavior. While binge eating disorder can get progressively worse, it is treatable at an eating disorder treatment center.
Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
Symptoms of binge eating disorder vary from person to person and while some are easier to spot, others may be difficult or may not fully be understood. Most people will notice the physical and behavioral symptoms, though the mental and emotional symptoms may be more difficult to decipher. It is important to remember someone with binge eating disorder may only show a few of the symptoms listed below, but the problem should still be addressed.
When observing for signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder, the first and most obvious signs noticed are physical. These symptoms are typically a result of the quick over consumption of calories. Some of the physical symptoms that can be found with binge eating disorder are:
- Fluctuations in weight: Many people with binge eating disorder will be overweight, typically with rapid and frequent fluctuations in weight, especially around frequent episodes of binging.
- Overeating: Regular episodes of overeating is often the most noticeable behavior. These instances involve rapid eating and eating past the point of being full. This symptom may not be noticeable to everybody as the behavior may be done in secret.
- Eating until becoming ill: Since an individual with binge eating disorder has difficulty controlling how much food they are consuming, they may eat until they feel physically ill.
- High blood pressure: Binge eating disorder involves the over-consumption of food and, oftentimes, processed or snack foods high in sodium. Extra weight can lead to higher blood pressure, and once blood pressure is elevated, these higher sodium foods can further increase an individual’s blood pressure. Symptoms of high blood pressure can include flushing in the face, especially after activity.
- High cholesterol levels: Cholesterol levels are often higher when an individual is overweight, and if the excess food they are consuming during a binge is high in trans or saturated fat, cholesterol levels can be further elevated, increasing the risk of clogged arteries.
- Coronary disease: High cholesterol and high blood pressure can lead to a narrowing and blocking of the arteries resulting in a number of heart-related complications. If these complications are present, they should be immediately addressed to prevent further heart-related issues.
- Painful joints: As weight increases, it can become more difficult for the body to support itself. This additional pressure can often affect the joints, causing pain and achiness, especially with increased movement.
- Gastrointestinal problems: Eating too much food, or large amounts of food that are processed or high in fat, can lead to a number of gastrointestinal problems. This can include bouts of constipation, diarrhea or even gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Type II diabetes: Being overweight or consuming high levels of sugar can result in problems with the body controlling insulin which can lead to the development of Type II diabetes. Diabetes can result in the need for insulin and can lead to a host of medical issues including nerve pain and numbness.
- Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is caused when the soft tissue toward the back of the throat collapses occasionally while at rest. When this occurs a person will experience short periods of time where their breathing is interrupted. Sleep apnea occurs when the body has excess weight, especially around the neck area. The condition not only interrupts restorative sleep, but can also lead to heart complications.
Behavioral symptoms of binge eating disorder may not be immediately apparent, but are behaviors that may become more noticeable over time. Most of the behavioral symptoms involve hiding food or the act of eating. Behavioral symptoms to watch out for are:
- The disappearance of large amounts of food: If there is an abundance of food in the home, or multiple people who utilize it, this behavioral symptom may be more difficult to notice. While binge eating can occur with any food type, it is sometimes easier to take snack foods or other similar items without them being as easily noticed when they disappear.
- Hidden food in rooms: Since binge eating often occurs when someone is alone, a behavioral symptom maybe regularly finding food hidden in bedrooms or living areas. This can include under the bed, in drawers or closets or any other place where food would not normally be stored.
- Large quantities of empty containers or wrappers: There may be stashes of trash from consumed food hidden in the bottom of trash cans or more unusual places, such as drawers and under the bed. This is often the result of a binge eating episode, and the evidence may often be hidden until it can be disposed of without being seen.
- Consistent eating throughout the day: While regular snacking can be common, continual and recurrent eating throughout the day can be a sign the eating is more a result of compulsion than actual hunger.
- Stockpiling of food: Binge eating disorder is marked by the constant urge to eat. To make eating in private easier, someone with binge eating disorder may purchase large amounts of snack food and stockpile it in their room so they can have it available for a binge.
- Excuses for meal absences: Since many people with binge eating disorder wish to eat in private they may make a variety of excuses to avoid family mealtimes; this can include the need to study or to meet up with friends. If skipping meals becomes routine, it may be cause for concern.
- Periods of fasting: When someone who eats fairly frequently suddenly stops consuming food for a long period of time, it could the result of a periodic fast that occurs due to feelings of guilt.
- The desire to eat alone: With binge eating disorder, secretive eating can be a common behavior. This can include consuming meals in their room or avoiding social situations where food will be involved.
- Withdrawal from social activities: Due to the need to be in control of the environment for a potential binge episode, and fear of having to eat around others, many people with binge eating disorder will begin to isolate themselves from normal social activities they once had participated in. When these social activities involve food, this can become even more pronounced.
- Perfectionistic tendencies: Binge eating disorder can provoke a feeling of lack of control. Because an individual may feel the food is taking control of their lives, he or she may find having control over other aspects of their life very empowering. This can result in tendencies to want to create perfection in everything they do. This can include being particular about the placement of items in their room, taking time to choose the perfect ensemble every day or working obsessively on homework or outside projects.
Emotional and Mental Symptoms
Emotional and mental symptoms associated with binge eating disorder can be the most difficult to determine. These symptoms are typically uncovered after binge eating disorder recovery at a binge eating treatment center has begun, though these symptoms may be obvious to someone who is a close confidant. Some of the emotional symptoms associated with binge eating disorder are:
- Depression: The inability to control situations, emotions or eating patterns can lead to feelings of depression. The individual could have also been suffering from depression before the binge eating began.
- Distorted body image: Since binge eating disorder can result in fluctuations in weight, it can also come with a dissatisfaction in one’s appearance. This negative view of one’s body size or shape can increase episodes of binge eating.
- Feelings of shame: Binge eating episodes are often accompanied by feelings of shame. This symptom can be particularly hard to notice unless the person with the disorder has someone they confide in about how they are feeling.
- Anxiety: Since binge eating disorder is something that often occurs in private, there may be anxiety associated with food in general. Family gathering, holidays or parties where food is a main part of the celebration can lead to stress and even panic attacks.
When Should Treatment Be Sought
Since many of the symptoms of binge eating disorder can be difficult to see, or may not initially present, treatment at an eating disorder treatment center should be sought even if only some of the above symptoms have been observed. While overindulgence can be common, persistent occasions of over consumption should be considered a possible sign. If observed, it is important to research treatment options and begin on the path to binge eating disorder recovery.