How do you know if you have Binge Eating Disorder? Is your eating is disordered or normal? I am going to go through the symptoms of the full disorder and signs of what to look out for
Binge eating Disorder, like any disorder can happen gradually and get worse over time. It can be so difficult to notice it getting worse because some days are better than others. We may find an event may trigger us into Binge eating. Any disorder is diagnosed not just over the behaviours but the length of time this has been happening and the frequency.
Many psychiatrists and doctors refer to the DSM manual 5, the diagnostical and statistical manual of mental disorders. This is the rule book as to what we can classify as an actual disorder. For a full disorder we would have to meet certain criteria. This is where the greyness comes in, you may have some of the criteria but not all of it, so this would constitute you having binge eating symptoms but not classify as having a full disorder. It is never black and white which is why it is not always easy to spot.
You may identify with some or all of these and it is essential, not to diagnose yourself, but if you think you have binge eating disorder start with an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
Binge Eating Disorder Symptoms Criteria
An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:
- Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances
- The sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)
You may eat a large amount when you have your dinner or on an occasion, which is normal. When you feel you are in this oblivious state when eating, that is when it is going into disorder territory. With overeating, we have a sense we’ve had enough, we’re now full. When though we are binge eating it is like that does not exist.
Binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:
- Eating much more rapidly than normal
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
- Consuming large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
- Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating
- Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating
Having one or two of these can be normal on some occasions. We’re at a party and the food is delicious so we eat some cake even though we are not hungry. We need to take note though if we are starting to eat in secret and the feelings of disgust come in on a regular basis.
If you have just binged, read my article here on how to get back on track after a binge.
Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.
This is not just a oh damn it I have overeaten, this is getting very anxious, distressed about your eating. We all get upset at times for something we wish we hadn’t eaten but a healthy eater will just let it go. But with binge eating it is a full on feeling of anxiety and a feeling that takes over.
The binge eating occurs, on average,
- at least 2 days a week for 6 months (DSM-IV frequency and duration criteria)
- at least 1 day a week for 3 months (DSM-5 frequency and duration criteria)
This is also what differentiates a disorder from occasional binge eating episodes. It is the frequency at which episodes are happening. If you binge eat but it is not as often as this, then it would not constitute as a disorder. However it is still something to get help with, because unless you address it, it could very well get worse as time goes on. What is causing your eating, is not going to go away unless you address it.
The binge eating is not associated with the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behavior (e.g., purging, fasting, excessive exercise) and does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
This is what separates binge eating from other disorders, is that there are no others behaviours associated with it, such as the excessive exercise or the purging.
- Mild: 1 to 3 episodes per week
- Moderate: 4 to 7 episodes per week
- Severe: 8 to 13 episodes per week
- Extreme: 14 or more episodes per week
The severity grading is a guideline and give you an idea of where you may be. As always, it is a guideline because you may differ from week to week.
How to keep track
If you are not sure whether your eating is an issue, if you feel it is, then it is for you. Writing down when you binge and how you feel about it can help you untangle it all from your head. When you feel ready to go and get help, you have a written document to help you remember your episodes.
It is hard to admit to ourselves when something might be a problem and can be even harder to go and seek help.
If you are not sure where to go to get help, Go to the National Eating Disorders website. It is a great source of information.