What Is Binge Eating Disorder?

We’ve all had those moments when we eat more than we normally would. Overeating might make your stomach hurt or give you heartburn, but it isn’t always a sign that you have a problem.

If you occasionally overeat, it does not mean you have a binge eating disorder. People who have a binge eating disorder overeat and then become very upset or angry about it. When people with this disorder eat this way, they feel a lack of control over their actions. They do not know how to stop the behavior. Binge eating disorder often goes hand in hand with stress, anxiety, or even depression.

People with binge eating disorder may experience weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease in the later stages.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in America. It’s more common in women than in men. Among women with the condition, it’s most common in early adulthood. Binge eating in men is most common during midlife. Binge eating often leads to obesity and weight problems, but not everyone who is overweight or obese has the disorder. In fact, only two in three people with a binge eating disorder are obese.

Binge Eating Statistics: Know the Facts

The Connection Between Marijuana and an Increase in Hunger

You probably have heard the phrase that people who smoke marijuana get “the munchies.” This isn’t always true, but many people experience a significant increase in hunger when they use marijuana.

The Effects of Marijuana on the Body

Scientists know that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, stimulates appetite. They are trying to uncover why this drives overeating.

According to Nature Neuroscience, one study found that the presence of THC in the brains of mice increases the ability to smell and taste food. In effect, marijuana use may make eating and tasting food a much more pleasurable experience because people can actually taste better.

Another study reported in Nature Neuroscience found that the chemicals in cannabis might stimulate specific neurons that drive overeating. This study found that the neurons that seem to be turned on with cannabis use are the neurons that normally shut down the body’s hunger cues. It appears that cannabis switches the brain’s wiring and sends strong messages of hunger even when you’ve just eaten or aren’t hungry.

The Connection Between Binge Eating and Marijuana Use

Does overeating caused by marijuana use eventually lead to a binge eating disorder?

The reverse may be true.

Research shows that overeating and binge eating in young adults may lead to marijuana use. One study reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that binge eating leads to an increase in obesity and symptoms of depression among young adults. Those symptoms include low self-esteem, low body satisfaction, and additional mental disorders. The presence of these symptoms is associated with substance use and abuse in these young adults.

Binge Eating Disorder Versus Overeating Due to Marijuana

Binge eating is a classified mental disorder. The American Psychiatric Association has established criteria for diagnosing binge eating disorder. Your doctor or therapist will use this list to diagnose you. If you meet the criteria, you can begin discussing treatment options.

You’ll take many steps when treating a binge eating disorder. Psychotherapy, medications, and a weight-loss support program are often used to help people with this problem and to address the triggers. Recovering from a binge eating disorder may help end some of the associated problems, too. This includes substance abuse.

The more you smoke marijuana, the more likely you are to overeat. Limiting your marijuana use may be important because overeating increases your risk for health problems. These problems include obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Talk With Your Doctor

Many people with these issues become very good at hiding them from friends, family, and even medical professionals. The best way to find help for binge eating is to admit you have a problem. Recognizing a binge eating disorder is not always easy. You may realize it yourself, or a friend or family member may help you. Awareness and acceptance are the first steps toward finding the help you need to treat the disorder and any related issues.

It is easy to find help if you are looking for it. If you are interested in ending a habit of marijuana use, your doctor can talk with you about reducing and eventually quitting. The two of you can reach an understanding about why you use the drug, how it makes you feel, and how you can learn to cope without it. When you no longer use marijuana, you will have less of a tendency to overeat.