Overeating or binge eating disorder is a medical condition defined by a habit of compulsively eating abnormally large amount of food on a regular basis even when completely full. This is followed by feelings of anger, disgust, or distress because of being unable to control the urge to eat. Binge eating disorder is characterized by regular overeating throughout the day, being unable to stop eating even when full, feeling guilt and disgust with oneself for eating, withdrawing from people and attempting to hide the binge eating habit, feeling anxious or depressed which only appears to be relieved by eating, and feeling numb or without sensations while eating. Although the condition is frequently associated with obesity, it is frequent among non obese people as well. Overeating disorder can give rise to physical as well as psychological complications if left untreated.
Overeating disorder can be caused by a number of factors. Hormonal imbalances are a cause of overeating disorder. Overeating disorder has been seen to occur among blood relatives, suggesting that the condition may be triggered by genetic causes. Overeating may also be caused by psychological factors. Depression is a frequent trigger for overeating disorder. Apart from this, binge eating disorders may also be caused by negative body image, low self esteem, and inability to cope with emotions. Traumatic life events and social pressure to be thin may also trigger emotional overeating.
Treatment for overeating are based on psychotherapy. Professional support from psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and nutritionists can help an individual overcome the condition. Support groups of friends and family go a long way together with professional treatment to help an individual through the overeating disorder. Individual, group, and family therapies are practiced for treatment. If the overeating disorder causes more complicated conditions like clinical depression and anxiety, medications may be prescribed in combination with therapy. Therapeutic procedures try to address the root cause of the eating disorder while helping the patient to develop a balanced and nutritious eating program, and help them get out of the habit of overeating. Since the patients of eating disorders actively try to hide their condition due to the feelings of guilt and shame, having a active support system can help the patient to deal with the condition, and may sometimes become the difference between life and death.
Binge eating disorders show a very clearly defined set of symptoms. People who eat compulsively and regularly in abnormally large amounts even when full, who eat as the only means of coping against emotional stress, who try to hide their overeating habits, who go through a continuous cycle of binge eating and dieting in attempts to get out of the habit are all eligible for treatment.
Overeating is sometimes culturally acceptable, as during celebrations or feasts. Treatment is usually not required unless the overeating continues on a regular basis. Obesity may be associated with overeating disorder, but not always. Hence, obese people need not be treated for overeating unless symptoms of overeating appear.
Psychotherapeutic treatments usually have no side effects. If medications are prescribed, some side effects may be visible.
After the treatment, it is necessary to build and maintain a stable and strong support system to help the patient to deal with the overeating disorder while continuing to help them develop their own abilities to deal with the condition. Maintaining a steady and healthy eating plan is also necessary after the treatment to prevent the patient from falling back on the overeating habit.
Recovery from the condition depends on a number of factors and is highly variable. There is no fixed recovery period, but professional therapy combined with support groups can quickly and effectively bring the condition under control.
Treatment costs vary widely in India. Cost of psychotherapy treatments depend on the training and experience of the psychotherapist. Psychotherapy treatment usually starts from Rs. 500 per session, and may go up to Rs. 5,000 per session or higher depending on the experience and training of the psychotherapist.
Results of treatment are effective if the patient is able to come out of the overeating habit and get into a healthy eating habit. How long the treatment stays effective depends on the abilities of the patient to cope with their condition and a stable support group of family and friends.
Apart from professional psychotherapists, both formal and informal supports groups can play a big role in helping the patient deal with overeating disorder. Relaxation therapies like meditation can help.