Binge Eating: The Most Common and Most Hidden Eating Disorder

Content warning: This piece discusses the causes, symptoms, and behavior in Binge Eating Disorder. 

Binge eating disorder is one that many people experience, but not one that many hear about. Binge eating disorder is characterized by eating more food than one would normally eat in a short period of time, to the point of losing control over what a person is eating. Some other common occurrences in BED are eating to the point of being uncontrollably full, eating a large amount of food even while not hungry, and feeling guilty and disgusted afterwards. 

Binge eating disorder isn’t something that should stay hidden-- it’s the most common eating disorder in the U.S.--meaning the more awareness there is for it, the more people may realize that they need help to get through the disorder. 

Most of the time, people binge to gain a sense of control, often in moments of sadness, loneliness, stress, anger, or frustration. Food is used as comfort-- it will make a person feel better for a few moments, but once the food becomes too much, and they start losing control, it turns into a binge, which is often followed by guilt, frustration, and disgust for oneself. 

We all have our own coping mechanisms-- some healthy, and some unhealthy. Going on a walk, exercising lightly, listening to a podcast, journaling, or taking a bath are all examples of healthy coping mechanisms. However, unhealthy coping mechanisms, like self-harm, binge-eating, restricting food, and overexercising, are about finding control. When we can’t control the difficult things happening in our lives, we often want to try to control something else, to feel like we still have a hold of the reins of our lives. 

Binge-eating, specifically, begins with wanting to eat one thing as a way to cope (like eating a cookie after a stressful day), but within a few minutes, or even a few seconds, it can turn into eating as much as possible. Having to find balance of how much to eat can be confusing when it’s difficult to listen to your body’s hunger cues, or if a person is eating when they’re not really hungry. So in an effort to find control, people with BED end up losing control, as is the case with most unhealthy coping mechanisms. BED creates a cycle where the more a person binge eats, the more their self-esteem will drop, causing them to continue to binge eat to cope. 

What’s important, though, is recognizing BED as a problem-- not brushing it off because nobody really talks about it. BED should be talked about, like any other eating disorder, like any other unhealthy coping mechanism. 

For help, please visit the following link, or talk to a trusted adult or doctor:

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline