While most of us eat too much from time to time and then complain about feeling ill, for others this is a regular occurrence. Compulsive overeating is actually a mental health disorder that can have a negative impact on the lives of many people.
The term ‘eating disorder’ typically conjures up images of waif-like individuals with protruding bones as our minds automatically turn to anorexia. The reality, however, is that compulsive overeating or binge eating disorder is far more common these days. In fact, according to statistics from the eating disorder charity BEAT, only ten percent of those with an eating disorder are anorexic. Another forty percent are bulimic and the remaining fifty percent fall into the category of ‘eating disorder not otherwise specified’, which includes binge eating disorder.
It can be difficult to understand how compulsive overeating can be classed as an eating disorder, as there are many misconceptions around it. Those who suffer from this condition are often judged for being ‘fat’ or ‘greedy’, and many people assume that these individuals choose to eat too much and accuse them of being unhealthy.
What is Compulsive Overeating?
Judging others for how they look and act is common among the human race; those who are overweight are often judged to have no willpower, but this may not always be the case. Yes, it is true that overall Western cultures are getting more and more overweight and that the obesity epidemic is reaching crisis point in some nations, but not everyone chooses to be overweight.
For some, compulsive overeating is a daily struggle; a struggle that they are battling with on their own. How compulsive overeating affects daily life can never be underestimated. Those with this mental health condition often suffer with low self-esteem, and many of these feel depressed and even suicidal. So what is the proper answer to the question of what is compulsive overeating?
Compulsive overeating, or binge eating disorder as it is more commonly known, is a serious condition that causes a loss of control around food consumption. People with the condition will regularly binge on large quantities of food, many to the point of being physically sick.
Contrary to popular belief though, those with binge eating disorders are not ‘greedy’ people who are overindulging; they are sick individuals with a very real condition that is making them unhappy. Binges are not enjoyable. In fact, they are often very distressing and leave sufferers feeling very upset afterwards. Many suffer from self-loathing and disgust, which then affects their mental wellbeing.
What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?
The exact cause of binge eating disorder is not known, but there are many different risk factors that could lead to the condition. For example, anyone with a family history of eating disorders may be at higher risk of developing an eating disorder themselves.
Emotional trauma can also lead to conditions such as binge eating disorder developing. Some individuals turn to food for comfort, and whenever painful memories from the past affect them, they try to seek solace in food.
Others will be suffering from mental health problems such as depression and again may be seeking solace in food. A good proportion of those with a binge eating disorder also suffer mental health problems.
Are You Affected by Compulsive Overeating?
Having a binge eating disorder does not make you weak; nor does it mean you are greedy or have no willpower. What it does mean is that you have a serious illness that requires treatment. It is important that you come to terms with how compulsive overeating may be affecting your life as soon as possible so that you can get the help you need to get better. The first thing to do is admit you have a problem. Spotting the signs of a binge eating disorder may help you to come to terms with a very real problem. These include:
- gathering food and hoarding it so that you can eat it on your own
- eating in secret and being unable to stop even when you are uncomfortably full
- feeling an out-of-body sensation when bingeing on food
- eating massive quantities of food in a very short period
- feeling guilty or disgusted with yourself after a binge
- becoming socially withdrawn and isolated
- spending most of your time thinking about food
- feeling tense or anxious about eating in front of others.
You might also be experiencing physical symptoms that are related to your condition, such as:
- mood swings
- weight gain
- abdominal pain
- trouble sleeping.
The Effects of Binge Eating Disorder
It is important to realise how compulsive overeating can impact your everyday life as well as the consequences if you do not get the help you need. For example, if you continue to suffer with compulsive overeating, you are likely to suffer with problems due to weight gain.
You might become obese, which can then lead to problems that include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. This will mean that you are at greater risk of having a stroke or a heart attack.
You might also find it hard to conceive if you are a female, and you could end up suffering constant pain due to pressure on your back and joints. This can lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety disorders appearing.
It is not just health that is affected by binge eating disorder though. If you continue in this vein, your relationships with others are also bound to be affected. Binge eating disorder can cause you to isolate yourself from others as you become more and more worried about eating in front of people.
You might avoid going out for meals with family and friends and will probably prefer to eat by yourself. The people you love and care about are unlikely to understand why you are doing this, and it may then cause tension within relationships.
Treatment for Compulsive Overeating
Compulsive overeating is a complex and serious mental health disorder and it requires professional help. Recovery is possible, but it can take time due to the complexities around changing your attitude towards food.
Treatment is all about learning how to develop a healthy relationship with food as well as helping you develop healthy eating patterns. It is likely that you will require counselling or therapy to help you identify the cause of your compulsive eating because it is necessary to tackle these underlying issues before you can get better.
Treatment programmes are provided by the NHS, charities, and private clinics. We specialise in treating those with co-occurring disorders; we have excellent counsellors with experience in helping others to overcome binge eating disorders.
Our programmes are designed to help patients overcome their urge to binge on food and we use a variety of techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy. These talking therapies will help you to understand that it is your negative thoughts and emotions driving your behaviours.
We will help you learn how to manage your stress in healthy ways and will teach you how to eat comfortably around others. Our programmes also include a range of holistic therapies such as yoga, meditation, and art therapy, all of which are designed to improve your overall wellbeing and reduce levels of stress. This whole-person approach has proven to be an effective treatment for eating disorders such as binge eating.
If you would like to learn more about how compulsive overeating can be treated, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us here at Primrose Loge today.