I have recently seen a series of different commentaries or editorials on “illness inflation” and “lowering the bar in medicine” that specifically mention Binge Eating Disorder (BED). These editorials make it sound like BED is a made up disease that you have if you suddenly eat a “few too many cookies.” As a clinician who sees first hand the devastating effect of binge eating disorder and the impact that it can have on quality of life, it makes me sad at how misunderstood this illness is. It’s frustrating for me, but it is stigmatizing and shameful for someone who suffers from BED to read that their illness isn’t “real.” When you’re struggling to stop thinking about food, feel ashamed in your body, afraid to eat because you’re worried you won’t be able to stop, it makes you feel like you have to hide your behaviors even more- which makes the eating disorder worse.
In reality, Binge Eating Disorder is a brain based biological illness with specific diagnostic criteria. It is not as simple as eating a few too many cookies. To be diagnosed with BED you must:
- Eat more food in a similar period of time than most people would under similar circumstances in a similar period of time. (This is why we overeat on Thanksgiving, but don’t all binge eat.)
- Feel out of control while eating- like you cannot stop eating.
- Not “make up” for your binge eating by another behavior such as restricting, purging, or over exercising.
- And this overeating episode is also accompanied by two of the following:
o Eating until you are uncomfortably full
o Feeling embarrassed by how much you are eating
o Eating even though you are not physically hungry.
o Eating much more rapidly than normal
o Feeling ashamed, guilty, disgusted or depressed after eating.
If this sounds like you, there is hope. I would be honored to help you recover from feeling out of control with food, or help connect you with a clinician who can support you in this process. Binge eating is a real eating disorder and someone suffering deserves hope, healing and support!
If you’re still not sure I think this link has some great descriptors about binge eating. Does it sound like you? You could also take this self-assessment to see if you screen for an eating disorder. Here is a link to the EAT 26 assessment, and here is a link to the EAT 26 scoring and interpretation.