By Deborah Fields, BSc (Hons), PgDip, MCIPR
Binge eating disorder (BED), a condition that involves a person rapidly and excessively eating over a period of time without purging and frequently repeating this, has various treatments. The way that medical staff can help the individual patient depends on thoroughly understanding the reasons behind the disorder developing.
The range of professionals who can help with BED vary. The disorder was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version V, which was published in 2013. In addition to a general practitioner who can help with the patient’s general health, the individual may need to seek further help from a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker or attend overeater self-help groups.
There are a number of treatment regimens that could help the patient to reduce their episodes of binge eating and lose weight. In general, psychological treatments tend to have longer lasting effects on patients in reducing BED than pharmaceuticals.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
During a course of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a therapist will help the patient to talk through their problems with overeating to encourage different thought patterns. The therapy focuses on how the patient’s thought processes can lead to certain negative actions which can be altered. The therapist tries to assist by encouraging the affected person to reduce their problems down into smaller elements so that they can be tackled step by step to avoid the issues seeming too daunting.
With binge eating disorder, a patient can have underlying depression or other mental health issues. Psychotherapy either on an individual or group basis is designed to help the patient explore issues that are contributing to the way they feel about themselves.
Medical staff will help the patient to talk about and examine how their relationships with friends and family are encouraging them to binge eat. The discussions help the patient to get to the root cause of issues. The therapists are trying to inspire the patient to develop their own interactive skills in order to cope with the different challenging dynamics between people around them. This is intended to help them have coping mechanisms instead of turning to binge eating.
BED can cause severe health risks for some patients such as those who can go on to develop diabetes - a life threatening disease that causes high blood sugar. Some patients with BED do undergo bariatric surgery to reduce the size of their stomach with a gastric band. Alternatively, they can have some of the stomach cut away or have a gastric bypass for the small intestine leading the food to a different compartment. This is designed to help the patient lose weight.
The success of BED in changing the behaviors of the patient varies even though they tend to lose some weight. Many continue to binge eat despite having undergone surgery.
BED has been strongly linked with emotional and mental health issues in some patients. As a result, some patients are prescribed medication to treat depression such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These have an impact on the chemicals in the brain related to the patient’s mood.
Another type of medicine used for BED are anticonvulsants. Originally they were prescribed for seizures, but they can also help to reduce the tendency to binge eat in certain patients. There can, however, be side effects from taking any pharmaceutical medicines as treatment.
Reviewed by: Dr Tomislav Meštrović, MD, PhD
Last Updated: May 19, 2016