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August 1, 2016

Binge Eating Disorder and Overcoming Emotional Triggers

young woman with illusion of Control in the Development of Eating Disorders

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Director of Content and Social Media at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

On the outside, binge eating disorder can take the appearance of many things, such as overindulgence or simply, a lack of self-control. However, for those who struggle with this debilitating eating disorder, it understood that there are far more complexities to this disease than meets the eye.

In fact, it is these assumptions about binge eating disorder that create many of the stereotypes around this mental illness, crafting only shame for those who may be deeply struggling.

Understanding the Basis of Binge Eating Disorder

Thanks to years of scientific research, we understand that binge eating disorder is influenced by a variety of factors, including both biological and environmental components. Biological factors might involve genetic predisposition, hormonal influences, and changes in neurobiology. Understanding this basis is critical because it sheds light on the greater picture that is binge eating disorder.

Those who struggle with this psychiatric illness do not willing choose to engage in the recurring behaviors characteristic of binge eating disorder. The biological factors connected to this eating disorder are strong influences that drive a person towards binging.

Even in the face of damaging consequences, binge eating will ensue, making it difficult for the individual to recover on their own. Professional treatment is an effective intervention in that it helps a person dealing with binge eating understand some of the factors that might be influencing this disease as well as individualized treatment for recovery.

The Role of Environmental Triggers

Environmental stressors can also trigger the development of binge eating disorder, particularly in an individual who may already be predisposed due to biological factors. These stressors can also be influential in the reoccurrence of binge eating episodes. For example, a person who binge eats may be accustomed to engaging in these behaviors as means of coping with stressful situations, anxiety, depression, etc.

When done repeatedly, this can quickly become the default way for dealing with difficult circumstances that may feel overwhelming to face in the moment. While there are clear biological factors that influence the development of the disease, binging can become a way to “manage” emotional stressors.

Learning Effective Coping Skills for Emotional Triggers

Part of the recovery process from binge eating disorder involves learning how to effectively cope with emotional triggers without resorting to binge eating. In the moment, binge eating can feel like an escape, a way to manage situations that are overwhelming and stressful.

Woman running with FitbitWhile binging may create a temporary escape, a person usually ends up feeling worse after the binge. Binging can actually increase anxiety and depression and create physical feelings of discomfort that can contribute to guilt, shame, and embarrassment.

Beginning to cope with feelings effectively begins with creating a stable foundation for adequate and consistent nutrition. An individual cannot successfully cope with emotions or even discern the difference between physical and emotion needs if the body is not fed and nourished adequately.

Working with eating disorder professionals, like a registered dietitian, can be helpful in terms of normalizing eating habits and developing a meal plan for consistent nourishment.

Working on normalized eating behaviors can work effectively with psychotherapy and counseling. Finding therapeutic ways for dealing with emotional stressors can become a powerful asset in the process of overcoming binge eating disorder. A specialized therapist or counselor can help you better understand the types of situations that may trigger the onset of binging as well as healthier means for coping with these stressors.

Therapeutic Treatments for Emotional Stress

We all experience stress in various forms, many of us on a daily basis. For someone struggling with binge eating disorder, the emotional stress that might be experienced can be enough to trigger binging episodes. Without learning alternative and healthier means for facing these stressors, the vicious cycle of binging can continue.

Effective psychological treatments can be a therapeutic intervention for emotional triggers and may include interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and more [1].

If you have been struggling with binge eating disorder, consider working with specialists who can assist you through the recovery and healing process from this disorder.


[1]: Iacovino, Juliette M., et al. Psychological Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder. Curr Psychiatry Rep. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2012 Sep 5

Crystal Karges photo

About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating.

Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 1, 2016
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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