How to combat binge eating disorder
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eating disorder

When people think of eating disorders, they’ll usually think about anorexia or bulimia. Both are fairly well known in the public eye, and most people have a good idea of their general signs and symptoms. They’re also both very serious and life-threatening diseases.

But neither is the most common eating disorder. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder, affecting 3.5 percent of women, 2 percent of men and 1.6 of adolescents. Like other eating disorders, BED is a complex mix of psychological and physical symptoms, making treatment a challenge. It’s also a fairly new diagnosis – the American Psychiatric Association first recognized BED as a diagnosis in 2013.

A new review suggests several treatment options for patients dealing with the disorder.

Talk therapy, drugs avenues for treatment

The review found cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy, can act as an effective treatment for BED. In use since the early 1960s, CBT helps patients use new skills to solve their problems by teaching them to understand the reasons that motivate their harmful behaviors.

The review also found the stimulant lisdexamfetamine, traditionally used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, was also useful in treating BED by reducing appetite and weight in patients. In 2015, the medication – often marketed as Vyvanse – was approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat patients with BED. Additionally, second-generation antidepressants such as Wellbutrin and Prozac were also helpful in treatment.

“Our review shows promising signs in today’s medical evidence base for both psychological and medication interventions,” said University of North Carolina associate professor Kim Brownley, Ph.D., lead author of the review.

Binge eating disorder’s differences – and similarities – with bulimia

There are some similarities between BED and bulimia. In both diseases, patients eat large quantities of food – often rapidly and beyond the point of feeling full – and often feel out of control as they do so. Both diseases have some of the same symptoms – food hoarding, a distorted body image – and often co-occur with other disorders such as depression.

However, most people with BED don’t engage in purging behaviors, such as vomiting. And while patients with BED avoid the severe health complications that purging behaviors bring, BED has life-threatening consequences of its own. NEDA warns patients with untreated BED have many of the same health risks associated with obesity, including Type II diabetes, joint pain, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.

According to NEDA, women are slightly more affected by BED than men – 60 percent of BED patients are female. The disease is more common in early adulthood in women; in men, the disease tends to manifest in middle age. Also, like every other disease, BED affects patients regardless of culture, economics or demographics.

Unfortunately, a recent World Health Organization study in 2013 found BED resembles bulimia in another way – it causes many of the same lifelong problems. Data from the study found both eating disorders were associated with:

  • Mental disorders such depression and anxiety later in life
  • Physical disorders such as diabetes
  • Low rates of employment in men, low marriage rates in women and increased levels of work disability in men and women

“Binge eating disorder has been largely ignored by health care providers, but it has a tremendous cost to the physical and psychological well-being of people with the disorder,” said study lead author and Harvard Medical School professor Ronald Kessler, Ph.D., in a Harvard press release. “When all of the cases of the disorder are taken together, the elevated levels of depression, suicide and lost days at work represent substantial costs to society.”

Methods aren’t the first step – treatment is

Eating disorders can become fatal if left untreated. According to eating disorder information resource, up to 20 percent of people with serious eating disorders die without treatment, a percentage that shrinks to 2-3 percent with treatment. also points out 60 percent of people recover from their eating disorder with treatment.

Sovereign Health of California provides expert treatment for eating disorders at two of our California locations. Our flagship treatment center in San Clemente treats women aged 18 and older, and our residential facility for adolescents in Rancho San Diego treats girls aged between 12 and 17.

A healthier life can start today. Call our 24/7 helpline for more information.

About the author

Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for Sovereign Health. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at

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