Ask Brittany: Binge Eating

Question: What’s the difference between binge eating and overeating? Is it any different from splurging on the weekends or mindlessly munching at a Super Bowl party?  What’s the difference between binge eating and overeating? Is it any different from splurging on the weekends or mindlessly munching at a Super Bowl party?

Answer: Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the United States, affecting people across the spectrum of gender, age, and background. Among individuals seeking out weight loss treatment, three out of ten demonstrate features of BED. But almost everyone overeats! So what’s the difference?

BED is defined by a few distinct behaviors and experiences:

  • Eating an objectively large amount of food during a discrete period of time (meaning, an amount of food that most people would say is a large amount of food).
  • During the episodes, the individual experiences a lack of control over how much they’re eating or feels as if they can’t stop eating.
  • The individual experiences marked distress regarding the binge behaviors – embarrassment, guilt, and/or shame are often present. Secrecy is common.
  • Binge eating occurs without compensatory behaviors such as purging or over-exercising (that would change the diagnosis).
  • The binges may or may not include eating food rapidly, and eating past the point of fullness to the point of feeling uncomfortable.

The frequency of binge episodes varies and the severity of the disorder is determined by how many episodes occur during a week. Binge eating disorder is not likely to get better on its own, and it can cause serious health issues. If you think you might have BED, or even if you simply struggle with overeating, I recommend seeing your doctor or therapist for a professional assessment.

Because of the intense feelings of shame that come with binges, and because the behavior is easy to hide, many people miss out on the opportunity for treatment. Binge eating is a treatable disorder, and is a condition we frequently work with here at the Counseling Center. Counseling (plus medication if needed) can significantly decrease symptoms of BED.

To make an appointment with one of our providers contact us at 425-462-2776, or contact your primary care provider for an appointment.

Brittany Steffen, MS, LMFT is a counselor at PRO Sports Club’s Counseling Center. If you have a question for her, write to her at bsteffen@proclub.com. Your question and her advice could appear in a future issue of PRO Pulse.

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