These days, the word “binge” can mean various things. We “binge watch” House of Cards on Netflix, or “binge listen” to the latest true-crime podcast. We also use the word to refer to our eating habits, saying that we binge on food. In this last example, with “binge” thrown around so casually, it can be hard to tell if it simply refers to overeating—or to more serious issues.
Binge eating disorder in Canada
A distinct medical condition, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in Canada. (It’s more common than anorexia and bulimia combined.) In a recent survey of over 10,000 Canadian adults, 1.54 percent of participants self-reported symptoms consistent with the criteria for BED. And here are some other facts that may surprise you: Research shows that BED affects more men than any other eating disorder, and can occur in both overweight and normal-weight adults.
Defining binge eating disorder
People who suffer from BED feel like they lose control when they eat. They may eat too quickly, eat beyond feeling full (to the point where they’re uncomfortable), and hide their binges from others. Overeating makes BED sufferers very upset because it brings on feelings of shame, guilt and self-loathing. A diagnosis of BED can be classified as mild (1 to 3 binges a week) to extreme (14 or more binges per week.)
It’s important to know that BED is not a “choice” or a “phase;” it’s a serious condition which is associated with mood disorders, anxiety and depression. Even so, the shame attached to BED can discourage people from getting help. Plus, there’s still a lack of awareness—BED was only recently recognized as a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, so people may not realize that their symptoms could be related to a medical condition.
Reach out and start the conversation
If you recognize your own eating patterns in the above description, and you’ve binged at least once a week for the past three months, it may be time to reach out to your family doctor, or to organizations such as the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC), Anorexie et Boulimie Québec (ANEB), or the National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED). You may not feel comfortable talking about your bingeing, but starting the conversation is key to getting the support that you need. There are several management options available, including cognitive behavioural therapies, nutritional counselling as well as medication.
You don’t have to live with Binge Eating Disorder. Asking for help is the first step.