BINGE EATING DISORDER
Dennis B. Kottler, MD
Westlake Village, CA
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Binge Eating Disorder (B.E.D.)
B.E.D. is defined as recurring episodes of eating significantly more food than most people would consume in a short period of time. The binge episodes occur, on average, at least once a week (often more frequently) and have persisted for at least three months. Usually the person feels guilt, embarrassment, and disgust. He or she feels unable to control the behavior and may consume large amounts of food very quickly. Often the bingeing is done while alone, although it also occurs in the presence of others.
B.E.D. has only recently been recognized by psychiatrists as causing severe emotional as well as physical distress. The emotional problems include poor self-image, depression, social withdrawal, anxiety, and problems in interpersonal relationships. The physical problems include obesity, heart disease, diabetes, joint problems ( due to weight bearing), and shortened lifespan.
Complication of Delayed Treatment
The longer treatment is delayed, there is the increasing risk of B.E.D. becoming a life-long problem, along with all the psychiatric and medical consequences. After many attempts to control the resulting obesity with diet, exercise, and support programs, eventually the person tires of the roller coaster of short-lived successes and mostly failures. He or she often reaches a point of resignation and decides that eating is the only gratifying activity along with an attitude of denial or fatalism regarding physical problems which will inevitably develop.
Fortunately this disorder can now be treated, often quite effectively. Effective treatment includes both psychotherapy and medication, usually in combination. Medication may involve the prescription of Vyvanse (also used in Attention Deficit Disorder), Topamax, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medication.
This disorder is not a "weakness" or sign of character defect. It is now believed there are underlying physical causes, probably genetic, that contribute to this problem. The longer the problem persists, the more difficult it becomes to treat and the greater distress the person will continue to suffer.
Call your psychiatrist to schedule an evaluation.
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