Binge eating disorder, the most common eating disorder in the United States, affects 2.8 million people. This disorder can be described as frequently consuming abnormally large amounts of food in one sitting. Most people have had experiences overeating on occasion, such as during holidays or other special events. However, binge eating disorder is more severe and characterized by frequent and recurrent episodes of overeating resulting in a lack of control over food intake.
A typical binge produces feelings of guilt and shame after mass quantities of food are consumed. So, watching a loved one suffer from this illness is challenging. As this disorder produces much shame and guilt in the sufferer, it can be difficult to determine if someone is struggling. We will look at a few examples of behavior that may indicate a problem with binge eating.
Signs and Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
Due to the nature of the disorder, many people who struggle keep their habits as hidden and private as possible. Most people with binge eating disorder are overweight or obese, however, weight alone is not indicative of a problem. A variety of physical, behavioral, and emotional symptoms can point to an individual having binge eating disorder.
The physical symptoms of binge eating disorder can include:
- Fluctuations in weight
- Eating until becoming ill
- Gastrointestinal problems
The behavioral symptoms can include:
- The disappearance of large amounts of food
- The desire to eat alone
- Withdrawal from social activities
The emotional symptoms can include:
- Distorted body image
People with binge eating disorder can become experts at hiding their behavior. So, you could recognize some, none, or all the above behaviors in your loved one. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, the specifics and details of the disorder vary from person to person.
How Can You Help?
It is difficult to watch someone you love or know struggle with binge eating disorder. It can be even more challenging to determine how you can best help them recover. There are a few ways you can offer support and love throughout the challenging process.
The first involves education about the disorder and recovery. Take the time to learn as much about the disorder and recovery as you can. This will help you to better understand the disorder and become an asset in a support system throughout their recovery.
Avoid Conversations About Triggering Topics
Another way to help is to avoid conversations about diets, weight, and body image. This can be very triggering to the person with the disorder. Redirect conversations to other positive and productive topics such as hobbies, ideas, or interests.
Validate Your Loved One’s Feelings
One of the best ways to help is offering your support through validation. Recognize and affirm that your loved one’s feelings are worthwhile and valid. Listen to them share openly without judgment and be curious to learn more about their experience. This process confirms to your loved one that they are not alone, and you are there for them.
The website www.nationaleatingdisorders.org offers great resources for you or a loved one. If the situation warrants, it may be necessary for you to intervene and seek more drastic measures such as inpatient treatment or hospitalization. In addition to this resource, you may want to refer them to an eating disorder counselor. These counselors are tremendous for helping someone recover from an eating disorder.
You can also read blogs about binge eating disorder, such as the one at Mind Diagnostics. Their blog posts covering binge eating disorder are highly educational and relatable. They can help you better understand the person in your life who has this disorder.
Binge Eating Disorder and Those You Love
Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. It is highly probable that everyone knows and loves someone who is affected. It can be hard to recognize binge eating tendencies or symptoms in our loved ones and even more difficult to talk about it.
Whether your loved one’s struggles are known or kept hidden, shame and guilt regarding the disorder do exist. It is important that we offer our support to them in the most productive ways possible.
Establishing a safe space and opening lines of communication for your loved one to speak honestly about their struggles can open a door to begin their healing. Remember – your loved one is suffering from a mental disorder, not a moral failing. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you and the sufferer are not alone. Recovery is possible and available to everyone.