The Most Common Eating Disorder May Surprise You

If you were to picture a person with an eating disorder, what comes to mind? Most likely, the image you conjure would be of an emaciated person withering away due to malnourishment. While this is not an inaccurate image, you might be surprised to learn that the most common eating disorder often has the opposite effect: obesity.

Few people think of an overweight person as suffering from an eating disorder. Eating disorders have long been associated with excessive weight loss, while weight gain was seen as a result of laziness and poor dietary choices. In some cases, there may be a much more serious condition at the heart of obesity: Binge-Eating Disorder (BED).

Binge eaters will eat very large amounts of food within a very short period of time. Often, sufferers feel they lose control when they are binging. Many will eat in private and will get embarrassed if they get caught. People who suffer from BED will usually become depressed or anxious, feeling shame, and remorse about their relationship with food.

Unlike people with bulimia, another common eating disorder, people suffering from BED do not purge the extra calories they consume. As a result, sufferers will often become obese. Without intervention, they will inevitably face serious weight-related health issues, such as high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes.

What few understand about BED is that it isn't merely a choice to over-indulge. Sufferers are not just reckless people who don't care about their health. People with BED are more like people who suffer from substance abuse. Under psychological distress, binge eaters will consume food to trigger brain chemicals that soothe them. These chemicals can be addictive, and there is a genetic element to the condition.

Just like people who abuse substances in an attempt to cope with stress and problems, people who binge eat also find they are just creating new, often more serious problems. Unfortunately, when your substance of choice is food, you can't just quit cold turkey.

Health care experts estimate that about one-fourth of overweight and obese people may suffer from BED. Many sufferers don't even realize they have an eating disorder, and thus they never bother to reach out for help. Others are reluctant to seek help because they are too embarrassed to talk about their issues with food. BED is no less dangerous a condition than any other eating disorder, though, and people who think they might suffer from this disease should know that health care professionals are not there to help them without judgment.

Sources: The Recovery Village, Tapestry, Mental Health First Aid

Photo: Pixabay

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