Binge eating has only been classified as an eating disorder recently; it is characterised by a lack of control over eating. Often people that binge eat have no recognition of the fact that they have eaten far more than their body needs. Binge eating can develop at any age but it is most common in adults aged between 20 and 25.
What causes binge eating?
There may be a number of different reasons for people to binge eat but the most common reasons are:
- Low self-esteem
- Desire to be thinner
- Lack of self-worth
- Pressure to look like other people (friends and relatives or celebrities, for example)
Symptoms of binge eating
Common symptoms of binge eating include:
- Weight gain (which may contribute to health conditions including heart disease, diabetes and increased risk of cancer)
- Abdominal pain
- Cravings for food (especially sugary foods)
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
Treatment for binge eating
Treatment for binge eating commonly involves a combination of medication, psychological therapy and changes in lifestyle. Small changes in a person’s lifestyle, coupled with counselling and therapy can make a huge difference to self-esteem and confidence; changing their diet, exercising regularly and giving up smoking and drinking will also help the patient to lose weight, reduce stress and improve their standard of general health. Antidepressant medication increases the level of serotonin in the body, which lifts the mood.
Support for people with eating disorders
People with eating disorders often isolate themselves and feel very alone during their illness, but there is a huge amount of help and support available to them. A number of charities offer impartial, confidential advice and you can contact them at any time; most help lines are also free of charge. You can contact BEAT, the Centre for Eating Disorders or Young Minds; the contact details are available online and you can also access links to their pages via the NHS website; this website also has a huge amount of information and advice. The Samaritans and Childline also offer 24 hour support.
If you feel you can’t talk to relatives or friends about your eating disorder, you may find it helpful to talk to other people that have been in your situation and have recovered or those that are currently fighting the disease; there are hundreds of websites online and forums where you can chat and get helpful tips and advice. Be careful when you search because there are also a huge number of pro-Ana websites, which could do more damage than good.
What to do if you think you, or someone you know, might have an eating disorder
If you think you might have an eating disorder try to talk to somebody about it; if you don’t feel comfortable talking to your relatives, confide in a friend, see your GP, talk to a teacher or contact an anonymous help line; don’t struggle on your own. Try to address the source of the problems, whether it be stress at work or school or a response to something negative that has happened to you; once you have identified why you feel low, you can start to find other ways to deal with it.
If you are worried that a friend has an eating disorder you can try and approach the subject with them; they may be angry when you ask them but this is usually a sign that they have got a problem. They may find it comforting if you offer to go and see their doctor with them. If they don’t want to talk to you about it, discuss the matter with their parents or relatives; eating disorders can be extremely damaging so it is important that they get treatment as early as possible. Stick with your friend, even though they will probably be very difficult to be around during their recovery; if you’re having troubles coping you can contact charities such as BEAT.