Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating is a disorder that is characteristically associated with compulsive overeating. Peterson, Golden & Kramer (2009) cited that binge eaters consume large amounts of food out of powerlessness and inability to control their eating style. This disorder compels one to eat even when one is not actually hungry. Such people can therefore continue eating for a long time even after they are full. Binge eating makes one to actually eat until they are uncomfortably full.

The rationale behind the choice of this topic is in the fact that this disorder is one of the commonest eating disorders among the adolescents and young adults. Insel (2011) indicates that although various studies have been conducted on eating disorders, such studies have failed to really establish the actual cause, signs and symptoms, consequences and treatment interventions for this particular disorder. Therefore more studies need to be conducted on the disorder to enhance reliable understanding and knowledge on the disorder (Insel, 2011).

Empirical study of binge eating is an undertaking that is very significant to the society. Many parents are struggling with their adolescent children that fall victim to this disorder. Such persons are more vulnerable to risks arising from the health implications of binge eating disorder (Mitchell, 2008). Therefore, this study will help the society at large to understand the causes of the disorder, its signs and symptoms, consequences and treatment interventions that can be applied to help victims of this disorder. This will thus save a large percentage of adolescents and young adults from various chronic and fatal health complications that result from the disorder (Mitchell, 2008).

This study will help in the identification and differentiation between indicators of binge eating and other health-related issues associated with food and eating. In this respect, it is also imperative to mention that treatment and therapeutic interventions against binge eating disorder can be applied to intervene against other eating disorders. Such therapeutic interventions may include cognitive behavior therapy. This study will thus not only be relevant to the particular disorder but contribute to knowledge expansion in the entire area of eating disorders.

Problem Statement

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is considered the most common of all the eating disorders. Statistics in the United States indicate that it affects 3.5% of females and 2% of the male population. This disorder is prevalent in up to 30% among those who seek weight loss treatment (Furth, Schmidt & Treasure, 2005). Both male and female adolescents and young adults are therefore susceptible to this disorder. Further, the studies conducted on the consequences and health implications of binge eating are alarming (Furth et al, 2005). For example, the disorder leads to various health risks especially that are predominantly linked to clinical obesity. This may include high blood pressure especially in the pronounced stages of the disorder.

The high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure makes the health of the victim to further deteriorate into heart diseases. For example, due to high levels of triglyceride content in the blood system, victims of binge eating disorder may suffer from heart diseases (Furth et al, 2005). The cardiovascular complications and diseases that victims of binge eating are vulnerable to are among the most fatal diseases in the world. Therefore, it is better to prevent some of these heart conditions by identifying the signs and symptoms and treating binge eating disorder at the earliest stage possible.

Although studies have been conducted on the eating disorders and their possible consequences, not much research has been done on binge eating (Barlow & Durand, 2010).  Therefore, the signs and symptoms as well as the consequences and treatment interventions against binge eating have not been clearly established. More and more adolescents and young adults are thus at great risk of falling victim to the disorder (Peterson et al, 2009). More detailed scientific study is thus critical to inform intervention approaches against the binge eating and other eating disorders.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is broadly to enhance and create more knowledge about binge eating disorder. Specifically, the purpose of the study is threefold. First, it aims at contributing to knowledge about the causes of binge eating among adolescents and young adults. Secondly, the study intends to establish the signs, symptoms and other indicators of binge eating as a disorder among the identified section of the human population. The third aspect relating to the purpose of the study is the health consequences/implications of binge eating and the possible intervention and treatment approaches that can be used to deal with the disorder.

Literature Review

Various studies have been conducted on binge eating disorder. Most of these studies have focused majorly on the three areas that this study concerns itself with. These include the causes, signs and symptoms, health consequences and treatment interventions against binge eating disorder. This part of review of related literature will systematically focus on these aspects by considering the studies that have been conducted, the findings and what other authors have written concerning the same eating disorder.

Causes of Binge Eating Disorder

According to studies that have been conducted, there exists no clear specification relating to the causes of binge eating disorder. However, research indicates that approximately 50 % of people that suffer from this disorder have problems with depression (Mitchell, 2008). While it is not very clear whether depression is a cause of or a consequence of binge eating disorder, most studies confirm that there actually exists a relationship between depression and this disorder.

Dieting issues are considered to have a bearing on the causes of binge eating. Some people become vulnerable and actually become victims of binge eating disorder due to poor dieting (Insel, 2011). For example people who skip meals are likely to binge eat when finally they find access to food. Such people experience a spontaneous and sporadic change of eating habits. Some acquire culinary deviations such as food hoarding, theft and isolated eating habits. Insel (2011) further indicates that in some people, this disorder results from failure to eat enough food each day or generally avoiding certain types of food.

Studies illustrate that some people resort to binge eating in a bid to cope with their stressful experiences (Wonderlich, 2007; Mitchell, 2008). Specifically, people with low self-esteem and self-image in relation to body size may respond to this stressor by eating uncontrollably large amounts of food to make up for their small body sizes. Wonderlich (2007) postulated that binge eating is also common among people who have difficulty in controlling impulsive behaviors, managing personal mood swings or expressing anger and bitterness. They thus re-direct their emotions to compulsive overeating as a coping strategy (Wonderlich, 2007).

Researchers have advanced biological explanations to explain the possible cause of binge eating disorder (BED) (Grilo & Mitechell, 2010).  According to this explanation, metabolism and brain chemicals have a bearing on binge eating disorder. Insel (2011) asserts that complications with the brain chemicals and neuro-receptors that cause arousal and motivation for food can lead to overeating especially when the brain cannot trigger the sense of satiety. Studies further indicate that genetic factors may be considered as causes of the disorder since in some families this disorder affects more than one family member.  Inherited genes can therefore make one more susceptible to the development of binge eating disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

Various surveys conducted on binge eating reveal that eating of large amounts of food in a short period of time is one of the common signs and symptoms of the disorder (Everitt, 2010).  This was established in a survey involving two hundred young adults that were suffering from this disorder (Barlow & Durand, 2010; Grilo & Mitechell, 2010).  Other studies have further established that in some cases, victims of binge eating disorder may develop certain food rituals. This includes sudden like and dislike for certain foods.

  In some victims, sudden or gradual onset of uncommon eating habits or trends may be symptomatic of the development of binge eating disorder. This is more pronounced among young adults. Barlow & Durand (2010) established in a survey that when a teenager or a young adult starts to skip meals or takes relatively small portions of food especially at regular meals, it could be possible that the person is developing binge eating disorder.

Body weight and body size fluctuations may indicate presence of binge eating disorder. In a study conducted with binge eating teenagers, the subjects reported that they are very keen on their weight and body shape disorder (Grilo & Mitechell, 2010). They therefore engage in weight cutting activities like strenuous exercises so as to control their body size and shape. However, more studies are still underway to really establish the relationship between body size and binge-eating (Barlow & Durand, 2010). Other signs include culinary deviations such as theft and hoarding of food, isolated eating, stress and depression, low self-esteem and feeling of guilt and self-hatred after eating large amounts of food.

Risks and Health Consequences of Binge-Eating Disorder

Most of the studies conducted on the health implications of binge eating disorder indicate that it is responsible for some of the heart diseases (Wonderlich, 2007; Peterson et al, 2009; Barlow & Durand, 2010). It easily leads to high blood pressure, rise in cholesterol levels, type II diabetes mellitus and other cardiovascular conditions and complications. Other studies have also linked the disorder to more behavioral disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and panic disorder that are related to food, eating, body size and negative attitude towards the self (Peterson et al, 2009).Such persons are therefore very vulnerable to depression.

Treatment Interventions

Literature exists on studies that have been conducted on the treatment interventions against binge eating disorder (Birmingham & Treasure, 2010; Grilo & Mitechell, 2010). Among the commonly mentioned treatment therapies are the cognitive behavioral therapy, the interpersonal psychotherapy, drug therapy and family therapy as some of the possible interventions against this disorder. According to studies conducted, patients responded positively to these treatment interventions. Their outcomes thus confirm their ability to reduce some of the signs and effects of binge eating disorder.


The research will apply both qualitative and quantitative techniques of data collection. Various tools will be used to collect data. These will include questionnaires, interview schedules and sampling techniques (Schutt & Nestor, 2012). Oral interviews with parents and patients diagnosed with the disorder will also help in collection of empirical data. In order to gather qualitative data, focus group discussions will be held with teenagers, young adults and communities to collect information relating to the disorder. This can further be narrowed down to discussions with patients. These approaches will help in collection of data on the perceptions, attitudes and understanding of binge eating disorder with respect to the causes, signs and symptoms, consequences and treatment of the disorder.

The data will be analyzed according to the key thematic areas of the study. This implies that the responses from the participants of the study will be coded and classified according to the three broad objectives of the study (Schutt & Nestor, 2012).  These include the causes, signs and symptoms, consequences and treatment approaches. This classification will help in the further analysis of the data. The data will be presented in terms of graphs showing age versus body size and vulnerability to the disorder. A correlation between age, eating habits and health complications and binge eating disorder will then be established.

Results of the Study

According to the data gathered through literature review and other approaches, it is possible that binge eating disorder results from peer influence, depression, stress, poor dieting and obsessive compulsive disorder such obsessive pre-occupation with the body size (Peterson et al, 2009). Besides, fluctuations in body size and weight, strange eating habits, large consumption of food up to uncomfortable levels, skipping of meals, culinary deviations can be considered as possible indicators of binge eating disorder.

Binge eating disorder is partially responsible for some of the serious cardiovascular complications, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and other disorders such as obsessive compulsive, panic and anxiety disorders that are associated with attitudes towards body size and shape (Peterson et al, 2009). However, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, family therapy, drug therapy including use of antidepressants can possibly be applied in the treatment of the disorder.


Binge eating is one of the commonest eating disorders among the adolescents and young adults. Most studies have established positive correlation between the disease and other health complications. Presently, most of the studies conducted in connection with the disorder just explain, in general terms, the causes, signs and symptoms, consequences and treatment interventions of eating disorders. More specific studies on this particular disorder are thus still needed. More studies should be done to help adolescents and young adults and the society at large to be more cautious and proactive in preventing binge eating disorder.

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