Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder that is typically characterized by chaos. Urges to binge can strike the sufferer frequently and without warning, leading to disarray, confusion, guilt, and anxiety.
Recovery for binge eating disorder will often involve a variety of techniques and psychotherapy that will help an individual regain their life and freedom from binge eating.
Because of the complexities involved with binge eating disorder, treatment must be comprehensive, involving a variety of evidenced-based approaches for optimal recovery. As a person begins to find healing in their recovery journey, they will also learn how to effectively cope with urges to binge.
Alternatives to Traditional Recovery Techniques
A common approach that is often taught in recovery for binge eating disorder is the practice of mindfulness and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). While there may be some initial skepticism towards these psychotherapy methods, many individuals will find these practices helpful in dealing with urges to binge, which can occur at any point of their recovery from binge eating disorder.
Psychotherapy approaches, including DBT, have been shown to be effective in helping a person with binge eating disorder overcome abnormal eating behaviors. What are these techniques and practices that can help a person overcome Binge Eating Disorder?
How Mindfulness Works
Mindfulness can be defined as:
“a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique .”
Essentially, mindfulness involves awareness of what we are experiencing moment-by-moment, including what we are thinking, how we are feeling, and the environment we are involved.
Mindfulness does not end there. It is also the practice of accepting those thoughts and emotions that we may be experiencing, not passing judgment on the present moments that may be occurring.
While the practice of mindfulness originated as an eastern tradition through Buddhist meditation, the integration of mindfulness into western practices has proved helpful for countless individuals suffering from a multitude of conditions.
The Benefits of Mindfulness Practices
What are the benefits of practicing mindfulness-based therapies in the recovery from binge eating? Mindfulness techniques may be helpful in the following ways:
The practice of mindful eating can help a person create greater awareness of thoughts, emotions, feeling, and behaviors. While eating disorders effectively numb emotions, practicing mindfulness can help a person reflect on what they are feeling or experiencing prior to a binge.
This can lead to a reflection of asking, “Am I really hungry, or is there something else I need in this moment”, and “What am I feeling?” Reflecting on such questions can help an individual work through urges to binge and identify what they really need to adequately nourish themselves.
Reducing Stress and Anxiety
Many binge eaters may use food as a way to cope with increased stress and anxiety. Mindfulness-based practices can be therapeutic in learning how to effectively deal with outside stressors that may be triggering binge eating, helping an individual process their emotions rather than hide behind them.
Making Peace with Food and Your Body
Therapeutic techniques involving mindfulness can help a person come to terms with their feelings and bodies as they learn to accept themselves in the present moment. This can happen over time as a person practices the experience and acceptance of present emotions without casting judgment.
What Is DBT?
A specific form of psychotherapy that has been integrated into the recovery process from Binge Eating Disorder is Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, which often has emphasis placed on the practice of mindfulness and other relaxation techniques.
DBT is helpful for individuals who are suffering from emotional dysregulation, such as in the case of binge eating disorder, as it teaches a patient how to “accept” any thoughts or feelings that may be unpleasant, rather than resisting. As a core fundamental of DBT therapy, the integration of mindfulness teaches a person how to experience one’s emotions fully and without judgment and to observe one’s environment with perspective.
When used as a part of comprehensive treatment, DBT can be an effective tool in decreasing the frequency of bingeing episodes while teaching healthy coping skills.
It is also important that DBT take place under the guidance of a qualified and experienced therapist, particularly one that has a specialty focus in eating disorder recovery. Other aspects of treatment that may compliment DBT in binge eating disorder recovery include medication management, medical nutrition therapy, and other forms of psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT).
Invaluable Tools Towards Long-Term Recovery
Eating disorders, such as binge eating disorder, effectively numb a woman or man from their emotions as it shells them from their environment and surroundings. While this may be the manner in which many individuals are able to “cope” with overwhelming situations, binge eating disorder can result in debilitating consequences.
The practice of mindfulness and DBT within inclusive evidenced-based treatment for binge eating disorder can be invaluable tools in the process of binge eating disorder recovery.
If you or someone you love has been struggling with binge eating disorder, it is important to seek out professional care, support, and guidance. You do not have to go through this journey alone, and there are a wide-variety of resources that can help support your recovery from binge eating disorder. Connecting with an eating disorder specialist can help you determine the most effective course of action for your treatment.
- Greater Good, The Science of a Meaningful Life. “What is Mindfulness?”, http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition
About the author: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC founded Eating Disorder Hope in 2005, driven by a profound desire to help those struggling with anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder. This passion resulted from her battle with, and recovery from, an eating disorder. As president, Jacquelyn manages Ekern Enterprises, Inc. and the Eating Disorder Hope website. In addition, she is a fully licensed therapist with a closed private counseling practice specializing in the treatment of eating disorders.
Jacquelyn has a Bachelor of Science in Human Services degree from The University of Phoenix and a Masters degree in Counseling/Psychology, from Capella University. She has extensive experience in the eating disorder field including advanced education in psychology, participation and contributions to additional eating disorder groups, symposiums, and professional associations. She is a member of the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), Academy of Eating Disorders (AED), the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (iaedp).
Jacquelyn enjoys art, working out, walking her golden retriever “Cowgirl”, reading, painting and time with family.
Although Eating Disorder Hope was founded by Jacquelyn Ekern, this organization would not be possible without support from our generous sponsors.
Page Last Reviewed and Updated By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 30, 2017
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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 a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.