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Understanding Binge Eating Disorder in Men

IMAGE Binge eating disorder is a type of eating disorder. It affects nearly 8 million people in the US and almost 40% of them are men. It had been viewed as a symptom of other eating disorders but it is now seen as a distinct disorder.

Like other eating disorders it has both psychological and social components. Men with this disorder struggle with the urge to binge, then feel shame at the bingeing incidents. This can become a vicious cycle that increases binges and leads to unhealthy weight gain and obesity. The good news is that this condition is now recognized as a distinct disorder and there are treatments available.

Defining Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is a loss of control over your eating. It is different than eating associated with normal weight gain. People with this disorder have an unhealthy connection to eating that leads compulsive behavior. During a binge the amount of food eaten is larger than most people would consume in a similar amount of time. It occurs frequently. The excess amount of food is often eaten in less than 2 hours. In addition to binge eating, people with this disorder will experience some of the following:

  • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode.
  • Eating until they feel uncomfortably full.
  • Eating large amounts of food when they do not physically feel hungry.
  • Eating alone because of embarrassment at how much they are eating.
  • Feeling disgusted with themselves, depressed, or very guilty after overeating.

The bingeing may occur at any time of day or night. It is a vicious cycle involving eating, shame, and despair. Bingeing often becomes secretive which may make it difficult for family and friends to recognize that there is a problem.

Risk Factors for Binge Eating Disorder

There are many factors associated with the development of a binge eating disorder. It is usually a combination of circumstances that sets the ball in motion. Here are some common characteristics found in people with binge eating disorder:

  • Depression
  • Problems dealing with emotions (certain emotions like anger, sadness, worry, or boredom can trigger binge eating)
  • Avoids conflict
  • Sensitivity to critical comments about weight, appearance, or body shape
  • Stress
  • Low self-esteem
  • Past experience with being bullied
  • Social isolation

It is not clear if these factors lead to an eating disorder or are caused by the disorder but they are often present together.

How to Get Help

Men with symptoms of binge eating disorder need to seek treatment as soon as possible. Early treatment can minimize the amount of weight gain and perhaps prevent obesity. Binge eating disorder is treatable and may include one or more the following:

  • Behavioral counseling (alone or with a group) to find and control triggers.
  • Counseling to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Treatment of any underlying disorders that contribute binge eating like depression.

Binge eating disorder is a complicated problem that can go on for years. If you feel you or a loved one needs help, contact your doctor and get started on treatment plan.

  • National Eating Disorders Organization

    http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

  • Overeaters Anonymous

    https://www.oa.org/

  • Overeaters Anonymous—Ontario

    http://www.oaontario.org/

  • Overeaters Anonymous—Ottawa

    http://www.oa-ottawa.org/

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  • Binge Eating Disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated October 3, 2012. Accessed November 7, 2012.

  • Binge Eating Disorder. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website. Available at: http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/binge-eating-disorder/. Accessed November 7, 2012.

  • Binge eating. Weight-control Information Network website. Available at http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/binge.htm. Accessed November 8, 2012

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