Binge Eating Disorder: Myth vs Facts

This article was written by Sara Sonnenblick.

Binge eating disorder was only officially recognized in 2013. Yet, it did not take long for the medical world to take note of its severity and prevalence. In an effort to debunk the falsities surrounding this disorder, below are some of the most common myths regarding binge eating disorder and its psychological and psychiatric context.

Myth

Binge eating is less common than other eating disorders.

Fact

Due to the media often associating eating disorders with restriction, like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, individuals often think these types are the most prevalent among eating disorders.

Yet, this is far from the truth. In fact, binge eating disorder is the most common type with 1.2% of adult women and 0,4% of adult men in the United States being affected.

Myth

A binge is simply consuming a large amount of food.

Fact

Listening to one’s hunger cues can lead to consuming more or less food given what a person’s body needs. Unlike what the media oftentimes suggests, eating past one’s hunger cues is not considered a binge.

People even use the term “binge” when referring to eating snacks late at night, such as fast food or chips with friends. This word usage is incorrect and offensive to those suffering from the mental and physical consequences of the disorder.

According to Mayo Clinic, binge eating disorder includes the following symptoms (in addition to others):

  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Feeling that one’s eating behaviors are out of their control
  • Feeling shame, depression, anger, or guilt over one’s eating habits
  • Rapidly eating large amounts of food during binge episodes
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss

These occurrences and feelings do not happen on a rare occasion for those suffering from binge eating disorder. They can become a regular experience and even a compulsion for many.

In addition, binge eating disorder can involve deeper psychological causes that do not necessarily even relate to hunger. These factors include:

  • Stress
  • Family history
  • History with dieting
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low-self esteem

Myth

Binge eating can be solved by putting food “out of sight.”

Fact

Binge eating disorder is a serious mental illness that should be treated with professional care.

Placing food “out of sight” would simply cause an individual to obsessively think about the food, leading to a higher possibility of repeated binging. As an analogy, if someone were to tell you “don’t think of an elephant”, you would most likely think of one instantly.

If one was to restrict themselves severely from access to food, they would, in reality, only increase their chance of binging due to inevitable hunger and a number of other triggers.

Myth

Those with binge eating disorder do not stop eating all day.

Fact

People who suffer from binge eating disorder often eat less after a binge due to guilt. In fact, feeling guilty and poorly about oneself after a binge is common among those who suffer from the disorder.

The feelings of guilt and self-hatred may lead binge-eaters to, once again, begin severely restricting themselves. Yet, as mentioned beforehand, the practice of severe restriction does not work and may, in fact, lead to an increase in binge eating.

These repeated behaviors are often referred to as the binge and restrict cycle, keeping people entrapped in behaviors that may cause them distress.

In sum, the public ought to recognize that individuals may be suffering from binge eating disorder in secret. Binges may occur late at night after a whole day of appearing to eat healthily, so it is important to understand that how someone appears to behave outwardly can have little merit in reality to their lived experiences.

Due to various stigmas, individuals with binge eating disorder often feel alone and helpless. Misconceptions are especially endemic around binge eating disorder due to the media’s portrayal of eating disorders presenting themselves in those who are thin or restrict their intake.

Through education and advocacy, we can end these stigmas. And by virtue of doing so, we may assist those struggling in taking the next step towards recovery. No person should suffer in silence.

*The above content does not necessarily only relate to those struggling with binge eating disorder, as there is a number of eating disorders that manifest in a myriad of ways. Likewise, if one struggles with binge eating disorder and does not relate to one, multiple, or any of these statements — that is, of course, valid and should not be dismissed.

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