Is It Easy To Treat Compulsive Overeating Disorder?

Compulsive overeating disorder is also known as food addiction. The patients are known to eat even if they are not hungry. It is characterized by frequent episodes of uncontrolled eating, or binge eating, during which the patients may indulge in consuming food beyond limits. They often consume food past the point of being comfortably full. This is a mental disorder characterized by an obsessive compulsive relationship to food.

Compulsive overeating patients tend to be overweight or obese but persons of normal or average weight can also be affected. Unlike individuals with bulimia, compulsive eating patients do not attempt to compensate for their binging with purging behaviors such as fasting, laxative use or vomiting. Compulsive overeating usually leads to weight gain and obesity, but not everyone who is obese is also a compulsive eater. They spend excessive amounts of time and thought devoted to food, and secretly plan or fantasize about eating alone.

Compulsive overeating patients overeat primarily through binge eating and they can be said to have binge eating disorder. Compulsive overeating patients can also engage in grazing behavior, during which they return to pick at food throughout the day resulting in large overall number of calories consumed even if the quantities eaten at any one time may be small. Compulsive overeating can lead to serious medical conditions including high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, sleep apnea, and major depression, kidney disease, arthritis, bone deterioration and stroke.

The patients of compulsive overeating disorder might consume anything from 5000 to 15000 kilo calories in a day causing an addictive "high" like those experienced through drug abuse leading to release from mental stress. They have increased tendency to secrete insulin at the sight and smell of food. Some researchers also attribute it to excessive neurological sensitivity in taste and smell of food. Studies show that there is an abnormality of endorphin metabolism in the brain of compulsive eaters that triggers the addictive process. For the compulsive overeating patient, the ingestion of trigger foods causes release of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. This could be another sign of neuro biological factors contributing to the addictive process.

Stoppage of addictive food causes withdrawal symptoms in those with eating disorders leading to the decreased levels of serotonin in the individual. This in turn causes anxiety and depression. Food is nothing but a complex mixture of chemicals that can affect the body in multiple ways, which is magnified by stomach-brain communication. It may be much more difficult for the patients to recover from food addiction than drug addicts. There is an old saying "when you are addicted to drugs you put the tiger in the cage to recover; when you are addicted to food you put the tiger in the cage, but take it out three times a day for a walk.”

The symptoms of compulsive overeating disorder are many. The patients of compulsive overeating disorder suffer from depression and mood swings. They eat very little in public but eat more rapidly than normal and are almost always overweight. They have very low self esteem and avoid social activities . They are aware that eating habits are abnormal since they tend to eat huge quantities of food even if they are not hungry. They are always preoccupied with their weight and feel guilty about themselves. They eat alone to avoid the embarrassment of overeating.

The treatment involves psychotherapy and drugs.

What is binge eating disorder?

People with binge eating disorder often eat an unusually large amount of food and feel out of control during the binges. Unlike bulimia or anorexia, binge eaters do not throw up their food, exercise a lot, or eat only small amounts of only certain foods. Because of this, binge eaters are often overweight or obese. People with binge eating disorder also may:

* Eat more quickly than usual during binge episodes

* Eat until they are uncomfortably full

* Eat alone because of embarrassment

* Feel disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating

About 2 percent of all adults in the United States (as many as 4 million Americans) have binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder affects women slightly more often than men.

What causes binge eating disorder?

Researchers are unsure of the causes and nature of binge eating and other eating disorders. Eating disorders likely involve abnormal activity in several different areas of the brain. Researchers are looking at the following factors that may affect binge eating:

* Depression. As many as half of all people with binge eating disorder are depressed or have been depressed in the past.

* Dieting. Some people binge after skipping meals, not eating enough food each day, or avoiding certain kinds of food.

* Coping skills. Studies suggest that people with binge eating may have trouble handling some of their emotions. Many people who are binge eaters say that being angry, sad, bored, worried, or stressed can cause them to binge eat.

* Biology. Researchers are looking into how brain chemicals and metabolism (the way the body uses calories) affect binge eating disorder. Research also suggests that genes may be involved in binge eating, since the disorder often occurs in several members of the same family. Neuroimaging, or pictures of the brain, may also lead to a better understanding of binge eating disorder.

Certain behaviors and emotional problems are more common in people with binge eating disorder. These include abusing alcohol, acting quickly without thinking (impulsive behavior), not feeling in charge of themselves, and not feeling a part of their communities.

What are the health consequences of binge eating disorder?

People with binge eating disorder are usually very upset by their binge eating and may become depressed. Research has shown that people with binge eating disorder report more health problems, stress, trouble sleeping, and suicidal thoughts than people without an eating disorder. People with binge eating disorder often feel badly about themselves and may miss work, school, or social activities to binge eat.

People with binge eating disorder may gain weight. Weight gain can lead to obesity, and obesity raises the risk for these health problems:

* Type 2 diabetes

* High blood pressure

* High cholesterol

* Gallbladder disease

* Heart disease

* Certain types of cancer

Obese people with binge eating disorder often have other mental health conditions, including:

* Anxiety

* Depression

* Personality disorders

Can someone with binge eating disorder get better?Is it safe for young people to take antidepressants for binge eating disorder?

It may be safe for young people to be treated with antidepressants. However, drug companies who make antidepressants are required to post a “black box” warning label on the medication. A "black box" warning is the most serious type of warning on prescription medicines.

It may be possible that antidepressants make children, adolescents, and young adults more likely to think about suicide or commit suicide.

The FDA offers the latest information, including which drugs are included in this warning and danger signs to look for, on their Web site at

Yes. Someone with binge eating disorder can get better.

People with binge eating disorder should get help from a health care professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker. As with bulimia, there are different ways to treat binge eating disorder that may be helpful for some people.

* Nutritional advice and psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

* Drug therapy, such as antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac) or appetite suppressants prescribed by a doctor

CBT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the important role of thinking in how we feel and what we do. Therapy for a person with binge eating disorder may be one-on-one with a therapist or group-based.

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