Compulsive eating is a mental health problem that is also known as binge eating disorder. Those affected by the illness will eat substantial amounts of food with little ability to stop. There are many reasons compulsive eating is bad for health and as many reasons it needs to be treated. If the problem is ignored, it can eventually lead to a myriad of health problems, some of which can be life-threatening.
What is Compulsive Eating?
Compulsive eating causes an individual to lose control over his or her food intake over a short period of time. This is also known as a food binge and is why the problem is referred to as binge eating disorder. One of the key signs of binge eating disorder is eating even when not hungry.
What are the Signs of Binge Eating Disorder
If you have been eating large quantities of food over a short period of time, you could have a food addiction. Below are some of the classic signs associated with this mental health problem:
- Eating substantial amounts and being unable to stop, even when full
- Eating faster than normal
- Eating when not hungry
- Eating in secret due to being ashamed or embarrassed about how much you are eating
- Experiencing feelings of disgust or self-loathing because of how much food you have eaten
- Hiding food to eat it later when you are alone.
If you have a binge eating disorder, you may feel that gorging on food is the only way to relieve feelings of tension or stress. You might also find that you are never satiated, no matter how much food you eat, or you’ll go into autopilot when you start eating and not even realise how much you have consumed until you feel physically sick.
If you feel as though you have no control over how much food you consume, and if you spend most of your time either eating or thinking about eating, then you probably have a binge eating disorder. It is important that you seek help as soon as possible as there are many reasons compulsive eating is not only bad for physical health but also for mental health as well.
The Consequences of Compulsive Eating
Binge eating disorder is associated with a wide range of issues. You are much more likely to experience social, emotional and physical health problems if you have an eating disorder than someone who doesn’t have one.
One of the more common side effects of compulsive eating is obesity. Unlike the eating disorder bulimia, where periods of bingeing are followed by purging, compulsive eaters do not normally use laxatives or make themselves sick to get rid of excess calories. Therefore, they have a higher chance of gaining weight, which can then lead to a host of other related health problems.
Obesity can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, bowel cancer and osteoarthritis. Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety disorder can also be caused by binge eating disorder, and some people will use mood-altering chemicals such as alcohol or drugs to self-medicate.
What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?
There is no single cause of binge eating disorder for every person. Why compulsive eating becomes a problem may depend on a few factors, including family history, environment, mental health problems and relationships with others.
Some people grow up in a home where food is used as a reward or comfort, and this attitude can continue into adulthood. This can then result in emotional eating, which is a major factor for those who go on to develop binge eating disorder.
Traumatic experiences can also lead some individuals to develop conditions such as binge eating disorder. Those who have suffered any form of abuse, bullying or the death of a loved one might seek comfort in food.
Those with mental health problems like depression or anxiety, or people with low self-esteem or body dissatisfaction are also more likely to struggle with food addictions.
Why Compulsive Eating Must be Addressed
Compulsive eating can continue for many years unless treatment is sought. Many individuals who suffer with this condition will not realise that they have a mental health illness that can be treated. They will have a negative opinion of themselves and will struggle on with feelings of shame and embarrassment.
Binge eating disorder is a growing problem and it is affecting many people across the UK. It affects individuals of all ages and gender. Probably the one thing that all binge eating disorder sufferers have in common is their need for help.
With so many mental and physical health problems associated with binge eating disorder, the National Health Service is under immense stress. However, with the right treatment, it is a mental health illness that can be overcome. The sooner binge eating disorder is addressed, the less chance there will be of associated illnesses developing.
How is Binge Eating Disorder Treated?
For most, a programme of outpatient treatment for binge eating disorder is required. Nevertheless, those who want the opportunity to access immediate treatment to overcome their illness in the shortest amount of time might want to consider a residential programme in a private clinic.
Binge eating disorder is a serious mental health condition, but it is a condition that can be effectively treated with therapy. In a residential facility, professional counsellors and therapists will use individual counselling and group therapy sessions to help the sufferer get to the root cause of his or her addictive behaviour.
If you are one such individual, they will work with you using techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy that will identify negative thought patterns and processes that have led you to this point. You will then work together to challenge these thought processes before developing alternatives.
You will learn various self-help techniques that you can take with you when rehab comes to an end. Once your treatment programme has finished, you will be able to get involved with support groups in the local community where you will meet others suffering the same condition as you.
You do not have to continue living with binge eating disorder. Help is available from various organisations across the country. If you are keen to get started or would like to speak to someone about whether you have a compulsive eating disorder or not, please get in touch with us here at Recovery Lighthouse today.
We have many counsellors who specialise in eating disorders and we can provide the information you need to take control of your life again. Our dedicated helpline is staffed around-the-clock so that you have someone to talk to when you need to. Please call now to find out more about us and how we can help you get better.