Thursday, 27 February 2014

Day four, Binge Eating Disorder

Welcome to day four of Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2014, today I'll be writing about Binge Eating Disorder!

Binge Eating disorder, like other disorders, is a psychological disorder, although it can have physical affects. It is characterised by recurring episodes of binge eating (eating, in a small amount of time, an amount that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar amount of time, and where the person feels a loss of control over eating); binge eating episodes are linked to (a minimum of three of the following) eating much more than normal, eating until uncomfortably full, eating large quantities when not physically hungry, eating alone due to shame of how much is consumed, and feeling disgusted with oneself and incredibly guilty; there is marked distress regarding binge-eating being present; and the binges are taking place on a minimum of two days per week, over six months. In binge eating disorder compensatory methods are not used (this is the main difference between binge eating disorder and bulimia). Binge eating disorder can affect anyone. It can also cause weight problems, and sufferers often have an overweight BMI, but just as an anorexia sufferer may struggle to eat in the healthy range because of psychological issues, so would someone suffering from Binge Eating Disorder.

Again, I asked another friend of mine from Minds Like Ours to share her experience, so this is what she has to say about Binge Eating Disorder:
Until the last couple of years I had never heard of BED, despite having had problems with food since I was around 11. As most others still do, I equated the words “eating disorder” with anorexia or bulimia. This exacerbated my problems, compounding the guilt I already felt about having no control over my behaviour – if other people could control their food intake why couldn’t I? To make this worse, even the professionals didn’t take my food concerns seriously. I saw various doctors and therapists for depression, yet none of them seemed to get that my issues with food and body image were at the root of it. So many professionals have talked to me about eating for weight loss – assuming that that should be the aim. Actually, that mind-set is completely inappropriate for someone struggling with BED; focusing even more on the food only increases feelings of guilt, powerlessness and failure when slip ups inevitably occur. Thankfully, I have finally recently found a GP who understands that EDs come in all shapes and sizes.
NB: It is important to point out that this article is written from my perspective as an overweight person with BED – although I realise that this may not apply to all sufferers, I hope the article still will apply.
For years I used food as an emotional crutch to help me deal with all the issues in my life. By the time I realised it was a problem I was already in too deep and things had spiralled out of control. I had no other way to deal with my problems and yet this now gave me so many more. But still I couldn’t stop. I hated myself so much for that and had the same obsessions that I’m sure many other ED sufferers do – that I was completely worthless as a human being because of how I looked. My body image and inability to control my relationship with food exacerbated my depression and directly led to severe suicidal ideation. Few know that I have an issue with food (this is one ED that is pretty easy to hide, given that most people don’t know it is one!) and even those who do have no idea of the extent. Yet they have felt the repercussions of my resulting depression and suicide attempt.
To date I have still never had treatment specifically for my eating disorder. However, although it has never been the focus of therapy, working on other issues, such as self-esteem and relationships, has loosened its grip. Finding support online from others who understand has also been vital, as the sense of isolation makes things so much worse. The most problematic part for me has been that focusing more on food makes the illness worse – yet how can I learn to eat more healthily and lose weight (for health reasons) without focusing on food? This is the part I am still working out. Although I still have a long way to go with my eating issues, I have progressed a lot with other struggles i.e. depression, self-harm and anxiety. I figure that as my ED has been around much longer, it will likely take much longer to heal.
Unhelpful things for someone with BED include having to listen to a friend complain about their weight when they are clearly much smaller and problems being minimised, e.g. being called lazy, or told to just cut out a certain food. As previously mentioned, dieting only reaffirms the illness, encouraging it to spiral even more out of control. It is important to eat enough and regularly – feeling denied something will only make cravings that much worse. Therefore, it is not helpful when a person with BED is encouraged to diet or when others pay attention to what they are eating. Constantly being told things like “Do you really think you should have that extra slice?” only focuses even more on food as the problem and fuels the feelings of guilt. Trust me, we are well aware of what we are doing and don’t need the “gentle reminder”. People need to respect that it is our decision what we eat and does not concern them.
If you think you may be struggling from BED, know that your problems are real and it is an illness. You are not weak or lazy and your disorder or weight doesn’t define you. There are plenty of others out there who also struggle and you deserve to be heard. Unfortunately, society hasn’t quite caught up yet and not everyone will be understanding, but persevere – there are others, including professionals, who will take you seriously.

A huge thank you, to the person who shared this.

The first port call for treatment is generally your GP. They may refer you on for talking therapies, a dietician, community mental health teams, inpatient wards, outpatient clinics, day patient clinics or general hospital if necessary. CBT is the main therapy used for binge eating disorder, and can have very positive outcomes. Family and friends are also key in recovery, and it is important that people with in your support system have a knowledge of the disorder, even if they don't understand themselves. It is also important to keep social activities going if possible, as binge eating disorder can be quite a lonely experience, and sufferers often shut people out because they feel they don't deserve friendships, or because they are so focused on food or embarrassed about their eating habits. There are also helplines like Beat (www.b-eat.co.uk/01603619090) and Anorexia Bulimia care (www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/01934713789) or websites like Minds Like Ours (www.mindslikeours.co.uk)

Some helpful books for sufferers and those supporting them include:
Overcoming Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder - Peter Cooper
Getting Better Bit(e) by Bit(e), a survival kit for sufferers of bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorders - Ulrike Schmidt and Janet Treasure
Overcoming Binge Eating - Christopher G Fairburn
Life without ED - Jenni Schaefer

And of course, for me, as a christian, I believe that God is key in recovery, its able to take place because of him, happens through him, and you can do it with him. You can trust him to help you through the darkest of times, and he will never leave you, and he loves you dearly and cares about your health, mental health included.

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