Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Binge Eating Disorder or BED is a food disorder in which a person frequently consumes large amounts of food in short periods and suffers severe guilt when finished. This disorder is exacerbated by anxiety and insecurity and, in turn, causes the vicious cycle to repeat over and over again. An individual who suffers from BED understands that it is cruel, humiliating and can strike at any moment of vulnerability.

During months where routine in predictable – September to June for those who work or are in school – binge eating can be easy enough to hide. Everyday practices are its best cover as we are in more control of our lives during these months. However, BED should not be dismissed during this time, nor should its warning signs be ignored.

During the holiday months, BED becomes much more punitive and often unbearable for those who experience the disorder.

Now that summer is here, for most people that usually means going to the beach with friends, hanging out by the pool, endless summer cookouts, shorts and tank tops, and the anxieties about body image. If you are one of the millions with an eating disorder, this time of year may make it even harder to manage your symptoms. Body image issues become obvious and maintaining a healthy relationship with food becomes more challenging.

Summer is a time to relax and recharge, but it is important to stay committed to your recovery. Consider these summertime challenges:

  • The increased “free time” that occurs during summer tends to create more “alone time” and eating disorder behaviors thrive in isolation and secrecy.
  • Body image issues may increase during summer months, as we tend to wear less clothing and show more skin.
  • Wearing a bathing suit can be particularly challenging for many.
  • The lack of structure in the summer months can lead to unhealthy routines like skipping meals or altering your normal sleep habits. This can make eating disorder and mental health symptoms worse.
  • Changes in the summer schedule can lead to an increase in physical activity and excessive exercise.
  • Co-occurring mental health issues like depression and substance abuse benefit from treatment and are not likely to go away in summer months.
  • Getting back into activities with “old friends” or even “new friends” can add to the social demand and thus increase overall stress.
  • Eating disorder behaviors may be exacerbated if stress increases due to new activities (taking courses or starting a new job) in summer.
  • Eating disorders are challenging to treat, require specialized treatment and have a high relapse rate. Anorexia nervosa, in particular, has the highest mortality rate of all mental health issues.
  • The longer that you wait to seek help for an eating disorder, the sicker you may become, making future treatment even more challenging.

But if you are struggling, or know that a loved one is struggling, do not delay seeking help any time of year. Call a professional for guidance. The courage you draw upon to choose treatment now will inevitably lead to improved outcomes and improved well-being.

Important information about Binge Eating Disorder

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH),Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder in the country and is defined by eating large quantities of food ” as much as 5,000-15,000 calories ” in a single sitting, then experiencing feelings of guilt and shame as a result. Binge sessions may occur after a period of stringent caloric restriction or dieting and they are often characterized by feelings of a loss of control.

Those who struggle with binge eating are often overweight or obese and, as a result, are likely to struggle with medical problems such as heart disease, some cancers, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, high levels of “bad” cholesterol, and/or type II diabetes.

  • An estimated two-thirds of people living with binge eating disorder are obese.
  • Binge eating contributes to the development of obesity, which in turn can trigger a host of chronic health disorders, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
  • Binge eating disorder is the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder, and an estimated 3 percent of Americans are living with the problem. Additionally, about 50 percent of patients with BED are also diagnosed with depression, 24 percent are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and 44 percent self-report struggling with eating habit management.
  • Cortisol released during the stress response and the corresponding storage of fat in the abdominal area are increased issues for those living with BED and obesity as compared to the general public, according to a study published in the journal Appetite. Stress can also be a trigger for binge eating.
  • Binge eating has been linked to increased rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, especially if the person with BED struggles with feelings of low self-worth and/or feels lacking.
  • People living with binge eating disorder very often also struggle with disrupted sleep patterns, including difficulty falling asleep, waking at night to eat, and struggling to go back to sleep.
  • The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that people living with binge eating disorder are at higher risk of developing such health problems as headaches, joint and muscle pain, sleep apnea, digestive problems, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, and fatty liver disease. They also experience difficulty in getting or maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

For BED victims, though it may not feel like it now, it does get better. Here are a few extra tips to help with your recovery, keep you on track and reduce the possibility of relapse.

  1. Set regular times for eating, but be careful about it. Do not starve yourself by allocating inconvenient times for a meal. The more control you have over food, the more you will find control in your mind.
  2. Look at food in a positive manner. Food is not an enemy but key to your survival. Learn to manage food intake to your benefit and overall health.

Most importantly, accept that some days are better than others. Do not blame yourself if you don’t feel invincible every day. Accept that you had a moment of weakness and continue to strive for a better day and a healthier future.

Good luck and have a Happy Summer!

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How to Thrive Living with an Addict in Recovery

Having a family member in recovery from addiction is one of the biggest challenges for a non-addicted loved one. A combination of relief, hope, emotional conflict and a tremendous amount of fear for the unknown surround your daily activities.

You are hopeful your addicted loved one will see what you have seen for some time – their addiction was not only ruining their life but yours as well – losing sight of your own needs while being focused on their needs. It is important that you evaluate your own wants and wishes irrespective of the addict’s progress in their journey to recovery.

With an understanding of what is involved with living with a recovering addict, you are more prepared to assist in the recovery process and provide the support necessary to decrease the chance of relapse. You already know that the addiction does not just affect the addict – family and friends are affected as well. This applies to recovery also. As recovery is a lifelong process, your loved one will not be “cured” upon returning from treatment.

As you play an important role in supporting the changes in life style required for long term recovery, here are a few guidelines for living with a recovering addict.

Recognize that problems may be prolonged.

Addiction effects are often felt within the family for a long time, even after the successful completion of treatment.  Typical challenges include financial difficulties, health problems and relationship matters.

The stress of these hardships can be assuaged with a few steps.

  • Consult with a financial advisor, who can help you plan short and long-term budgetary needs. You may want to consider a loan, if necessary.
  • Support regular doctor visits for your loved one, as health problems associated with the addiction may linger.
  • Attend family-based therapy. Honest and open communication is critical to all involved.

Stay involved and be familiar with the processes of addiction recovery.

As in most cases, alcohol and drug abuse significantly changes the lives of those close to the addict, particularly in the immediate family; therefore, the family often needs help too.

Many treatment facilities offer education for family members on topics that are vital to restoring the health of the family unit. The entire family should participate in the treatment and well as the recovery process. Deciding to participate in family education is an excellent way to support the addict’s recovery.

Many outpatient family therapy programs are available. A certified therapist teaches intervention skills that can be used to handle stressful and trigger situations. You also learn productive communication skills to express feelings without assigning blame.

Promote sobriety

One of the most important things that a family must do is maintain an alcohol or drug-free and sober lifestyle. Keeping someone in recovery away from the temptation of using is essential, especially in the first year of recovery. Ideally, a home should be completely emptied of any addictive substances. It may be necessary for the family to make a lifestyle change to support a loved one during recovery, even if your family has always kept alcohol or other substances on hand for social events or special occasions.

The family can participate in activities and hobbies consistent with a substance-free lifestyle, such as bike riding, gardening, planning a vacation, hiking, camping or going to the movies.

Find help for yourself

Just as the individual in recovery will require support from family and friends, it will also be important for family members to have support. Family support groups can help with the emotional and physical stress the may surface while supporting the individual in recovery. By seeking support for yourself, it may also encourage the addict to seek additional recovery and aftercare support services.

Here are a few support groups devised for family members and friends of recovering addicts:

  • Nar-Anon. 12-step program for family and friends of drug addicts.
  • Al-Anon. 12-step program for family and friends of alcoholics.
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics. A group for adults who grew up in an alcoholic household and display characteristics associated with trauma and abuse.
  • Families Anonymous. All-encompassing 12-step program for family and friends of those afflicted by substance abuse or behavioral addictions.
  • SMART Recovery Family and Friends. A science-based support program for family and friends of alcoholics, drug addicts and other related addictions.

Reduce stress

Recovering addicts may be more susceptible to stress and may relapse.  Stress factors include:

  • Family conflicts
  • Relationships
  • Work
  • School
  • Health concerns
  • Finances

Understanding what to expect and how to help a recovering alcoholic or drug addict proceed with recovery can prove to be beneficial. You can offer resources that can help with stress, such as relationship counseling, adult education, therapy and support groups.

Keep in mind – it is also important to focus on yourself and manage your own stress.

Proven sources of stress relief for you and your loved one include:

  • Keeping a journal
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Steady breathing

It is important to remember that you should not expect recovering drug addicts or alcoholics to behave perfectly when they first enter recovery. They will often need time to adjust to life outside of treatment. Your job is to promote a supportive and comfortable environment for the recovery process.

Avoiding relapse

Finally, it is imperative that you take action if you believe that your loved one may be at risk of a relapse. If you believe your family member is in danger of relapse, immediately take steps to provide a safe environment. Look for these warning signs.

  • Romanticizing past drug or alcohol use.
  • Starting to reconnect with old friends from drug-using days.
  • Sudden changes in attitude or behavior.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities.
  • Appearance of withdrawal symptoms.

If you are concerned your loved one may relapse, you can:

  • Approach your family member in a kind and caring manner. Express your concern without judgment or blame.
  • Ask your loved one to contact their sponsor.
  • Suggest they attend a 12-step meeting. Encourage your loved one to attend a 12-step meeting or recovery support group.
  • Encourage your family member to talk with a therapist. Or recommend that they enter an intensive outpatient program to get back on track.

By understanding what is involved in living with a recovering alcoholic or drug addict, you can be better prepared to assist with recovery and offer support to decrease the chance of relapse.

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