College Students and Binge Eating Disorder Prevention

There is a lot of misunderstanding about eating disorders. Thus, many people are unaware of the wide range of disordered eating behaviors that can cause harm. One of the eating disorders that many people aren’t aware of is binge eating disorder.

Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by a pattern of binging that occurs at least once a week for three months or more [1]. In order for something to be considered a binge, it has to be an amount of food that is significantly larger than what most people would eat in the same amount of time.

This behavior often leads people to feel disgusted with themselves, depressed, or guilty [1]. Not only does this disorder cause significant emotional distress, but it can also lead to the development of potentially fatal disordered eating behaviors [2].

This is one reason that researchers are developing effective prevention techniques for this disorder. Research is showing that female college students are especially at risk for developing BED [2]. There are a few prevention strategies that have shown to be helpful for supporting this population:

Confronting Incorrect Beliefs

People with BED tend to have harmful beliefs about food and their body. There are a few ways to confront and correct these harmful thinking patterns. One way is to get educated about how to begin telling the difference between rational and irrational beliefs.

Once someone is able to recognize irrational thoughts, they can begin replacing the thoughts with reality-based beliefs. An example of an irrational belief is, “The only way I can feel better is if I eat a bunch of cookies.”

This is irrational because while binging cookies may bring temporary relief, it isn’t the only thing that will help. One way someone could confront a thought like this is to think of all the other possible coping skills.

Another common thing among people with BED is not knowing what healthy eating patterns actually look like. This can lead to a lot of disordered beliefs that can contribute to disordered eating.

Getting support from an eating-disordered informed nutritionist can help people to confront their incorrect beliefs about food [2].

Gaining Control Over Emotions

College aged girl struggling with binge eating disorderBinging is often an attempt to cope with distressing feelings [2]. Some people may never have been taught how to identify what they are feeling or how to cope with it in a helpful way.

Learning how to accurately recognize your emotions and then use effective coping skills is shown to help people reduce binging behavior [2]. Another aspect of gaining control over emotions is learning how to communicate them.

This can be very stressful for some people. However, there are certain techniques that mental health professionals can teach individuals to help them communicate more authentically and clearly to others.

This is important because if someone is binging so that they can cope with upsetting feelings, being able to talk with someone else about it creates more opportunities for resolving issues or having more support.

Changing Behaviors of Binge Eating Disorder

It can take a lot of practice to stop doing certain behaviors, especially if they are done habitually or impulsively. People with Binge Eating Disorder tend to feel that they can’t control their behavior [1].

Developing ways to change behaviors can help people practice developing different habits. This can be frustrating because recovery is never going to be perfect. Sometimes someone will be successful in tolerating an urge to binge, and other times they will end up binging.

This is okay and is actually an important part of recovery. Learning from setbacks can help people further understand what triggered them and how to cope more effectively in the future.

These techniques have been shown to help people recover from binging behaviors and to prevent the development of more dangerous behaviors [2]. If you or a loved one struggles with binging, getting help can set you free.


Resources:

[1] American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

[2] Yang, J. & Sun Han, K. (2020). A rational emotive behavior therapy intervention for binge eating behavior management among female students: A quasi-experimental study. Journal of Eating Disorders, 8(65), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40337-020-00347-8


About the Author:

Samantha Bothwell PhotoSamantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a 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.

Published January 22, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on January 22, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.