Do you think you may have a problem with overeating or binge eating? Having an extra serving of ice cream after a bad day doesn’t mean you have binge eating disorder (BED). If you consistently find yourself eating large amounts of food, and those eating episodes cause shame, regret, guilt, or sadness, you may have BED.

Overeating is not the same thing as binge eating disorder. BED is a medical condition, and it’s the most common eating disorder in the United States. People with BED regularly eat large amounts of food while experiencing a sense of loss of control over the eating episode. They often feel guilty or shame after eating. No one knows what causes BED, but it may stem from genetics or family history, and it’s associated with other psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety.

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Emotional eating is another type of eating some people associate with binge eating disorder. While some people with binge eating disorder overeat because of emotional triggers, not all do.

Even if you find yourself overeating to the point of excess on certain occasions, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have binge eating disorder. It mostly boils down to how frequently you binge, whether you lose control and feel like you can’t stop eating, and how you feel during and after a binge eating episode.

If overeating is something you do on occasion, but it doesn’t distress you, you probably don’t have binge eating disorder. If you feel shame during and after binging, and hide your eating habits, then you may be suffering from BED.

If you think you may have binge eating disorder, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have
    episodes of eating a large amount of food in a short period of time while
    experiencing a sense of loss of control over the eating more than once a week?
  • Do you feel like you do not have
    control over your eating?
  • Do you feel shame, guilt, or regret
    after overeating?
  • Do you often eat when you’re not
  • Do you often eat alone because you’re
    embarrassed about how much you eat?

These are all red flags for BED. If you answered yes to some of these questions, reach out to a health professional to get evaluated.

Binge eating disorder can cause both physical and emotional health complications if left untreated. For those who are overweight or obese, potential complications include:

  • asthma
  • type 2 diabetes
  • heart disease
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure

BED can also affect your emotional health. People with BED may experience anxiety, depression, or low self-worth or self-esteem. These things, in turn, can have a large impact on a person’s quality of life.

The most effective treatments for eating disorders typically involve some form of psychotherapy or counseling with a medical or nutritional component. Counseling could be in the form of individual or group counseling. Some treatments involve outpatient therapy, while others are as inpatient at a specialized treatment facility.

What Therapy Is Available for Binge Eating Disorder?

Your treatment plan will be highly individualized depending on emotional factors and how severe your binging is. Therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy are often used to help people with BED establish regular patterns of eating.

With binge eating disorder, the focus is often on addressing the behavioral, emotional, and cognitive connection to food before anything else. Whatever your treatment looks like, because it will be highly individualized, it’s important to find healthcare professionals who are experienced with treating binge eating disorder.

Binge eating disorder isn’t an issue of self-restraint and it has nothing to do with willpower, says Dr. Carson, R.D., Ph.D., executive director of FitRX. It’s a serious disease that requires treatment. And the sooner you seek help, the sooner you can start your recovery.

If you think you may have a problem with excessive overeating, especially if you find yourself losing control, reach out to a health professional right away. The best time to reach out is now.