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People think that people with Binge-Eating Disorder are just a bunch of overeaters. But the truth is that BED is a serious mental illness, with potentially serious consequences.

People think everyone with an eating disorder is a really skinny person whose wrist might break if you shook their hand, or is the girl running to the toilet and making herself retch when she eats a whole pizza. These horrendous generalisations aside, there is another eating disorder, only whispered about, mostly forgotten: Binge-Eating Disorder.

Binge-Eating Disorder is just as serious as Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa, but receives little attention.

Binge-Eating Disorder is not the same as overeating. Everyone overeats on occasion. Who hasn't forced in that extra slice of birthday cake, because it was chocolate and calling to them? Who hasn't had seconds on the roast potatoes in the holiday period, and found their bulging stomach straining against the too-tight top-button of their jeans.

That's not binge-eating disorder. Occasional excess is not a mental illness. That kind just calls for an antacid and a self-warning to not get so carried away in future.

People with binge-eating disorder frequently feel compelled to eat a large amount of food over a short period of time; they feel they lack any self-control, and may eat even when not hungry. Some people plan binges in advance, buying in special "binge" foods for the purpose, such as cookies or cakes. Others describe being "in a daze", and being unsure of what they're eating or why.

Binges are followed by feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment. The person with binge-eating disorder is often disgusted by their own behaviour. This shame and self-disgust lowers their self-esteem and may drive them to another binge.

Binge-eating disorder has only recently been recognised as an eating disorder equal with Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa, being added to the DSM-V. This is good news for sufferers of this insidious disease. Finally, this forgotten eating disorder has been granted legitimacy by psychiatrists, and people experiencing it should no longer be seen as "overeaters". Finally, the correct treatment can begin.

Who can develop Binge-Eating Disorder?

Up to 2.6% of people have binge-eating disorder. The numbers of men and women affected are pretty much equal. Most of the time, the disorder develops as a young adult, but most people don't seek help until well into their 30s.

Do I have Binge-Eating Disorder

If you notice the following symptoms, you may have BED:

  • Do you eat more rapidly than usual?
  • Do you eat a lot in a short space of time?
  • Do you eat until you feel uncomfortably full?
  • Do you eat, even when not physically hungry?
  • Do you frequently binge alone, at night, or when other people can't see you?
  • Do you feel ashamed, guilty, or disgusted after you binge?
  • Do you feel unable to control the amount you're eating?
  • Do you stockpile high-carb or sweet food, especially for bingeing at a later date?
  • Do you feel numb while bingeing?

Why does Binge-Eating Disorder matter?

Binge-eating disorder puts you at risk of many serious physical problems, some of which are life-threatening:

  • Heart disease, caused by raised blood pressure and high cholesterol. One in every four deaths in the United States is due to heart disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes, caused by bingeing on high-sugar foods, raising blood sugar levels artificially
  • Osteoarthritis, pain and swelling in the joints, caused by weight gain
  • Sleep Apnoea, pauses in breathing while you sleep, caused by weight gain
  • Gallbladder disease, caused by high-fat diet
  • Gastrointestinal problems

You can also find that emotional problems, such as depression and anxiety, will get worse the longer you experience binge-eating disorder.

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