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Age, family history critical factors in binge-eating risk
Binge-eating disorder is a serious eating disorder in which you frequently consume unusually large amounts of food. Almost everyone overeats on occasion, such as having seconds or thirds of a holiday meal. But for some people, overeating crosses the line to binge-eating disorder and it becomes a regular occurrence, shrouded in secrecy. When you have binge-eating disorder, you may be deeply embarrassed about gorging and vow to stop. But you feel such a compulsion that you can’t resist the urges and continue binge eating. Although it is the most common of all eating disorders, it’s still not considered a distinct psychiatric condition. But if you have binge-eating disorder symptoms, treatment can help you.
When you have binge-eating disorder you often have numerous behavioural and emotional signs and symptoms, such as:
• Eating large amounts of food
• Eating even when you’re full
• Eating rapidly during binge episodes
• Feeling that your eating behaviour is out of control
• Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss
• Frequently eating alone
After a binge, you may try to diet or eat normal meals. But restricting your eating may simply lead to more binge eating, creating a vicious cycle. You may have no obvious physical signs or symptoms when you have binge-eating disorder. You may be overweight or obese, or you may be of a normal weight. If you have any binge-eating disorder symptoms, seek medical help as soon as possible, because the disorder usually doesn’t get better by itself, and it may even get worse if left untreated.
The cause of binge-eating disorder is unknown. As with many mental illnesses, it’s thought that a variety of factors are at play in binge-eating disorder, such as:
• Biological factors. People with binge-eating disorder may have inherited genes that made them more susceptible to developing an eating disorder. In addition, brain chemicals may be altered in people with binge-eating disorder.
• Psychological factors. Psychological and emotional factors may also play a role in binge-eating disorder. You may have low self-worth and trouble controlling impulsive behaviours, managing moods or expressing anger.
• Environmental factors. Modern western culture often cultivates and reinforces a desire for thinness. Although most people who have binge-eating disorder are overweight, they are probably acutely aware of their appearance and may get angry with themselves after eating binges.
Factors that can increase the risk of developing binge-eating disorder are:
• Being female. Women are slightly more likely than men to develop binge-eating disorder.
• Your age. Although people of any age can have binge-eating disorder, it often begins when people are in late adolescence or their early 20s.
• Family history. If you have close relatives, siblings or parents, who’ve had an eating disorder, you have an increased risk of developing an eating disorder yourself.
• Dieting. People with binge-eating disorder have a mixed history of dieting, some have dieted to excess dating back to childhood, while others haven’t dieted. Dieting may trigger an urge to binge eat.
• Psychological issues. Certain behaviours and emotional problems are more common when you have binge-eating disorder. As with bulimia, you may act impulsively and feel a lack of control over your behaviour. You may have a history of depression or substance abuse. Binge eaters may have trouble coping with stressful situations, anger, sadness, boredom and worry.
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