So why is this a problem? Perhaps, upon first blush, it seems like normal behavior. Sometimes a person overeats. Don’t we all? However, this condition is much different than an extra dessert at dinner or two orders of bacon at breakfast. With BED, the bingeing behavior becomes a systematic, all consuming way of life. It becomes an addiction. The individual spends most of their time thinking about the binge--when it will happen, what they will eat, and where they will do it. Often their whole day, each day, is psychologically and logistically planned around the above details of the binge. The binge itself has a frenetic and secretive feel to it. Usually the individual engages in the binge in private and attempts to keep others from knowing they are participating in this kind of behavior. During the binge, the individual eats an inordinate amount of food, typically in a very rapid (frenetic) manner. Most people with BED report feeling a “high” during the binge portion of this process. They feel a sense of escape, relief, satiation and comfort. However, once the binge is over, there is another set of rituals and emotions associated with this disease. The person naturally feels physically uncomfortable but also, invariably, feels psychologically distraught. Most BED sufferers report feeling anxious, depressed, guilty, shameful and disgusting after engaging in a binge. As a result, they spend a lot of time post-binge beating themselves up for the behavior and vowing never to do it again. Then when they do repeat the behavior, they feel even more terrible for not being “strong” enough to interrupt this pattern. This initiates a cycle of addiction marked my guilt and shame for repeatedly engaging in the behavior, despite the negative consequences. Paradoxically, it is these very feelings that contribute to the addict continuing to turn towards the behavior again and again in order to escape these unbearable emotions. And so it goes… a painful cycle of addiction. At this level, BED can become a consuming, destructive condition that interrupts one’s ability to thrive in relationships, at work, and in the world.
A Review of this Pervasive but Less Familiar Eating Disorder