Last week I attended a symposium about Eating Disorders and Diabetes. I discovered that Binge Eating Disorder is thought to affect up to a quarter of women diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. I had no idea it was so common. It affects about 1.4% of women in the general population, it’s less common in men – about a quarter of people with Binge Eating disorder are male.

Binge Eating Disorder is characterised by eating large quantities of food over a short period of time, on average over 6 minutes, even when a person is already full. Binges tend to happen when a person is emotionally charged eg. upset or angry. During the binge they have no control over what they are eating. The eating process is not enjoyable – they don’t savour the food they are eating. Food tends to be highly calorific and people with Binge Eating Disorder are at high risk of gaining weight. People often do it secretly, even close family members often don’t know about it. After a binge has finished people feel guilty and distressed.

People are at higher risk of Binge Eating Disorder if eating disorders run in the family, or if there are other forms of addictive behaviour within the family. There may be a family history of conflict or a personal history of trauma, as the binges may be a way of dealing with difficult emotions.  People also often have issues with body image.

As well as the risk of putting on weight and of developing Type 2 Diabetes there is also an association with Binge Eating Disorder and Depression.

If someone is over-weight and has Binge Eating Disorder, trying to make dietary changes to improve their health can be the wrong approach. It’s important to work on their relationship between food and emotions first of all. Fortunately there are very effective psychological treatments, both for Binge Eating Disorder and also for associated Depression.

If you think you may have Binge Eating Disorder, speak to your GP about it. Additionally there is a charity called BEAT – Beat Eating Disorders, UK. They have a help-line, on-line support groups and also links to local resources where help can be accessed.

Izzy Howat

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