It’s important to understand binge eating to learn how to stop it.
When most people hear the term “bingeing,” they make instant judgments about those who suffer with it. The psychological components of this eating disorder can be incredibly difficult to navigate.
Due to the level of secrecy involved, different organizations post statistics that vary drastically. However, it is estimated that approximately 4% of the United States population is affected.
Important Information about Binge Eating
- Bingeing does not include purging (induced vomiting).
- It is marked by bouts of excessive overeating.
- A person bingeing feels out of control, as if they must continue to eat.
- Those who binge are not always overweight or obese.
- The majority of those who binge hide their condition due to shame.
- It can fuel conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
- Bingeing has nothing to do with actual hunger.
- There is no resulting “pleasure” after bingeing.
- After binge eating, feelings of guilt, failure, self-loathing, and sadness manifest.
- A large number of abuse survivors develop a binge eating disorder.
- Those who suffer from depression and anxiety disorders have a higher risk of bingeing.
- Individuals in jobs that demand high levels of outer fitness are more susceptible.
- Women who diet often have a higher risk of binge eating.
- People who binge may have difficulty coping with anxiety, stress, or trauma.
- Binge eating is the most common (and secretive) eating disorder.
A closer look at the gut-brain connection may shed light on new ways to treat people who suffer in silence. Scientists are researching chemical reactions in the brain to determine links between genetics and eating disorders.
To learn how to stop binge eating, you also have to examine what may be motivating the behavior. Significant emotional upheaval may actually be robbing you of your control.
The Link between Depression and Binge Eating
In a fascinating study from Michigan State University, researchers discovered that binge eating is a unique side effect of depression in some people. Where the condition typically results in a lack of interest in anything you once found pleasurable, there is a subcategory of patients who go to the opposite end of the spectrum.
Rather than lethargy and withdrawal that are usual symptoms of depression, the primary indicator is a lack of impulse control. Patients act in ways that are unusual for them, such as bingeing on large quantities of food they wouldn’t otherwise.
This is a trait discovered in 2008 called “negative urgency” and it’s biological. That means if you have the bio-markers for this trait, it could take over despite how you feel or whether you are “strong enough” to resist the pull of certain urges.
Professor of psychology at MSU, Kelly Klump, explains the new findings. “People thought that impulsivity is what was linked to binge eating. The thinking was that people who binge ate did so simply because they were impulsive. It’s actually a lot more specific than that. It’s not really people who are impulsive so much as people who become impulsive when they are depressed.”
Similar studies regarding alcoholism have found the same results. Specific behaviors that are motivated by biological impulses are a recent discovery but it could change the way doctors address mood and behavioral disorders as well as addiction in the future.
The original study done with Ohio University has received significant attention in the field. The International Journal of Eating Disorders published their coordinated results involving more than 600 participants.
Psychology professor and co-author, Sarah Racine, said, “Every component of binge eating that we tested is associated with negative urgency.”
After the ravages of puberty, many genes that weren’t expressive prior to the massive hormone changes suddenly manifest. Negative urgency is one such trait.
It can express itself during periods of extreme happiness or emotional upset, removing the usual controls you naturally have in place.
Racine clarifies, “Not everyone who has a bad day is going to turn to food to cope with that negative emotion. But those who do are likely wired to.”
Eating disorder statistics are gradually climbing in developed countries. The results of this study is a step in the right direction. With further research, scientists may pinpoint the exact genes that short circuit impulse control and truly be able to help patients stop binge eating once and for all.
It isn’t just willpower and it’s okay to ask for help. You don’t have to suffer alone.