Binge Eating Disorder : Symptoms and Treatment

An Interview With Therapist Natalia Gian Buchanan, M.S., LPC

Have you considered that someone in your life has a binge eating disorder? Are you unsure if what you are seeing is a binge eating disorder? Would you like to help them overcome their binge eating disorder but just don't know what type of treatment is available? To help answer your questions and more, I have interviewed therapist Natalia Gian Buchanan.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

"I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Texas.  I am currently living in Austin, and I have a private practice where I work primarily with those that struggle with emotional eating, i.e those that regulate their feelings with food.  Many of my clients struggle with binge eating disorder, specifically.  I received my M.S. from The University of Kansas in Counseling Psychology.  My memberships include the American Counseling Association, Texas Counseling Association, Austin Group Psychotherapy Society, and the Austin Eating Disorder Specialists."

"As a private individual, I enjoy competitive swimming, strength training and reading.  I’m a member of three book clubs in the Austin community."

What is binge eating disorder?

"Binge Eating Disorder is not yet a current, stand alone disorder/diagnosis under the current version of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual- IV-TR; although this may change when the new version of the DSM is published." Note:  Binge Eating Disorder was not included when the DSM V was published after all.

"Binge eating is currently characterized by eating, a large amounts of food in a discrete period of time (approximately two hours).  The amount of food should be considered larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time.  People who struggle with binge eating disorder do this on a regular basis.  Also, no compensatory measures should be taken to “get rid of the food,” e.g. self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxative, diuretics, enemas, fasting or excessive exercise."

What are the signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder?

"There are several components to process or ritual of binge eating.  First is the hunt for the food.  People often describe obsessing and fantasizing about what food he or she is going get, how much, from where and how he or she is going to obtain that food.  This is very similar to drug seeking behavior."

"Once the person obtains the food, there seems to be a frenzy to eat it.  It doesn’t seem like an option for the binger just not to eat the food.  Then, when the bingeing commences people often describe “not being present” during the binge episodes.  It’s as if he or she assumes automatic pilot and can consume very large amounts of food and not really remember eating it."

"After all the food is consumed, guilt and shame usually set in.  To avoid these feelings, some people will begin the binge cycle again.  It’s a self-perpetuating and painful cycle."

What type of impact does the binge eating disorder have on a person’s life?

"Struggling with binge eating is an incredibly painful way to live. It can cause a host of physical, emotional and social problems.  People with binge eating disorder report more health issues such as stress, insomnia, and suicidal ideation than people without an eating disorder. Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse can also result.  Binge eating can also interfere with a person’s relationships and career, e.g.  missing work, school, or social activities in order to binge eat.  But the most common effect of binge eating disorder is weight gain. Binge eating disorder often feels all consuming and hopelessness can result.  Feelings of loneliness, shame and guilt are also common."

What type of help is available for someone who has binge eating disorder?

"Help is available in many ways. It can come in the form of individual therapy, group therapy, and/or medications.  When deciding which route to take in your to treat binge eating disorder, it is important to seek the help of an eating disorder specialist.  Health professionals who offer treatment for binge eating disorder include licensed professional counselors, psychiatrists, and dietitians."

"The goal of treatment for binge eating disorder is to reduce compulsive overeating and bingeing episodes. Weight loss may be another goal if obesity is endangering your health. However, it is important to note that the restrictive nature of dieting can contribute to the binge eating cycle, so eating disorder specialist should carefully monitor any weight loss efforts."

What advice would you like to leave for someone who has binge eating disorder?

"I would like to offer the idea that help is out there and that you don’t have to face it alone.  Many people struggle with binge eating, and there are plenty of avenues to get help."