A scholarly study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry this March confirmed that both cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) were very helpful in the treatment of binge eating disorder.
Binge eating is the most common eating disorder in the United States, and slightly more common in women than men. Binge eating, or eating copious amounts of food even when not hungry, is often seen in a cyclical pattern with dieting in those who suffer from the disorder. Dieting is felt to trigger an urge to binge in many patients. Rapid eating, feelings of disgust about eating, and eating alone are characteristic symptoms of the condition. Those who suffer from the disorder often also have other psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and depression. They usually binge in secrecy. Eating too much now and then, such as at holiday gatherings, is not a symptom of binge eating disorder.
Binge eaters may be of normal weight, or may be overweight or obese. However, weight itself does not factor into the diagnosis.
The therapies tested in the recent study differ substantially, but both were effective. CBT focuses on specific triggers for binge eating episodes, and helps those with the disorder gain a sense of control over their behaviors. IPT addresses the often damaged or damaging interpersonal relationships that can lead to the kind of self-harm that serious eating disorders typify. The treatment outcomes did differ slightly in this study, but both treatments were quite effective in achieving remission and even recovery for those with binge eating disorders. Finding a psychologist or psychiatrist skilled in the type of treatment you prefer is a very important part of a successful treatment program.
While not discussed in this paper, other treatments have also been found to help those with binge eating and its associated disorders. A 1995 study at the University of Michigan Medical School demonstrated a correlation between development of eating disorders and touch deprivation. Patients reported both a lack of touch such as holding and hugging in childhood and in their current lives. Addressing touch through massage may be helpful for these individuals.
A 1999 study at Indiana State University demonstrated a significant improvement in binge eating through regular meditation and mindfulness training. A 2005 study from Psychology of Women Quarterly demonstrated that yoga can reduce the self-objectification that women with eating disorders typically exhibit. Women who regularly practice yoga were found to have improved body satisfaction and less disordered eating. Biofeedback has been found to be helpful in some related eating disorders, such as bulimia nervosa (which involved both binge eating and subsequent self-induced vomiting, or purging, of the food). Hypnosis has also been used with some success in eating disorders. A report published in 2010 by researchers at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, looked at the potential of acupuncture as an adjunct therapy (a treatment given in additional to the usual treatments) in eating disorders, and demonstrated improvements in quality of life, decreased anxiety, and decreased perfectionism.
Sadly, those with eating disorders such as binge eating often suffer with shame, hide their symptoms and distress, and do not seek treatment. I sincerely hope that by discussing the myriad options which are shown to successfully treat this disorder, and other eating disorders, that readers might find one that resonates with them and will speak to their medical team openly about these serious issues.
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