The most prevalent eating disorder in the U.S., binge eating disorder (also known as obsessive compulsive overeating) is linked with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It involves the consumption of very large amounts of food in a short period of time. About 2% of American adults struggle with binge eating disorder. Though this particular disorder can develop at any age, it is seen most in young adults. In contrast to other eating disorders, one-third to one-fourth of all patients with binge eating disorder are men. Preliminary studies also show that the condition occurs equally among African-Americans and Caucasians.
Binge eating can be triggered by certain emotions (boredom, anger, sadness, etc.). The binge eater’s feelings of disgust and guilt often lead to depression. Studies find that obese binge eaters have much higher levels of depression than other obese individuals. Binge eaters are likely to have problems with impulsive behavior and alcohol. They feel they can’t control themselves, are typically not close with their community, and have trouble discussing their problems and feelings. Binge eaters have more health issues—joint pain, muscle pain, stress, headaches, menstrual problems, difficulty sleeping and digesting food—and often have suicidal thoughts. Ashamed, they excel at hiding their disorder, even from close friends and family.
Underdiagnosed, binge eating can be more difficult to recognize than other eating disorders. Because it is not commonly taught or discussed, many don’t realize the disorder exists or that there may be a psychological reason behind it. Random eating patterns can help diagnose binge eating: healthy foods for a few days, followed by dieting, followed by a relapse into binge eating. A common misconception is that binge eaters don’t have healthy eating habits or simply “don’t know better.” What makes this an eating disorder is the addiction to eating large amounts of food and repeated relapsing while trying to return to healthy eating.
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