Overview of Compulsive Eating

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Compulsive eating is a behavior that may be exhibited in both children and adults. According to the American Psychiatric Association, compulsive eating is a behavior associated with various types of eating disorders. Compulsive eating can also be a disorder in its own right and is sometimes referred to as binge eating disorder. Many individuals with this disorder struggle with weight gain and, sometimes, conditions like depression.

What Is Compulsive Eating?

Compulsive eating or binge eating disorder is characterized by eating an excessive amount of food even when no longer physically hungry. Some people binge to the point that they feel sick as well as out of control. While many people have experienced that feeling of overeating, someone who eats compulsively tends to do it on a regular basis. Many people who eat compulsively are overweight or obese, but this condition can occur in individuals whose weight is normal. Some signs and symptoms of compulsive eating disorder include:

  • Eating rapidly while binge-ing
  • Eating to the point of physical discomfort
  • Feeling out of control when eating
  • Eating when you aren’t hungry
  • Eating large amounts in secret
  • Experiencing feelings of guilt, shame, or depression as a result of eating

Treating Compulsive Eating

The medical community cannot pinpoint the precise causes of compulsive eating, but some studies suggest that there could be a genetic predisposition. Many people who have this disorder often begin to exhibit signs and symptoms of it in adolescence. Understanding how and why this disorder occurs can help psychotherapists examine the triggers that lead a person to eat compulsively.

Typically, psychiatrists or other mental health therapists will recommend interpersonal therapy for compulsive over-eaters. Antidepressants may also be helpful in this condition’s treatment. Often, outpatient therapy is recommended for people who eat compulsively. In some instances, however, hospitalization may be required if the condition has led to other serious health problems.

If you or a loved one binge eats compulsively, treatment can help. Sufferers can learn effective strategies for managing their eating habits. Therapy, medication, establishing new routines, and attending support groups can have a positive effect on an individual’s recovery journey.