While binge eating disorder (BED) and addictive behaviors share many characteristics, it is erroneous to use the terms interchangeably.
Overeating has degrees of severity. Binge eating disorder is high on the scale. Food addiction is the extreme on the continuum and may simply be an acute form of binge eating disorder. Although the illnesses are distinctly different, the markers for each can be similar.
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating is compulsive overeating. Binge eaters will eat huge amounts of food while feeling out of control and unable to stop. Episodes usually last about two hours although some people binge on and off throughout the day. Binge eaters will eat even if they do not feel hungry and will continue eating despite feeling full.
Binge Eating: A Vicious Cycle
People with binge eating disorder frequently have feelings of guilt and depression. They are concerned about their behaviors and the potential physical consequences of those behaviors. Although binge eating provides momentary comfort, it is followed with regret and battered self-esteem. This type of binging behavior often leads to weight gain or obesity which then leads to more compulsive eating in an attempt to cope. It is a vicious cycle that perpetuates the illness.
Read,“What to Do about Binge Eating.”
Binge Eating Symptoms
Binge eaters exhibit behavioral symptoms, such as:
an inability to stop eating or to control what is eaten,
rapidly eating great amounts of food,
eating despite feeling full, and
hiding food to eat at a later time when alone.
Emotional symptoms of binge eating include:
relief from stress through eating,
embarrassment over how much food is eaten,
feeling dissatisfied despite how much is actually eaten, and
feelings of disgust and guilt after overeating.
What is Food Addiction?
Food addiction defines the effect that junk foods, or foods that contain sugar or wheat, have on reward centers in the brain.
Studies have shown that obese people who go on a food binge of dense carbohydrates have the same D2 dopamine gene marker as alcoholics and drug addicts. In addition, PET scans have shown that binge eating obese people have the same brain image problems as alcoholics and drug addicts. Such findings lend support to the contention that food addition is a biochemical dependency on food.
Food Addiction Symptoms
Symptoms of food addiction include:
frequent cravings for particular foods despite feeling full,
eating more than you intended to,
eating to the point of feeling stuffed,
feelings of guilt after eating particular foods,
attempts to hide the consumption of unhealthy foods, and
feeling unable to control your consumption of unhealthy foods despite the knowledge that the behavior harmful.
Binge Eating or Food Addiction: The Bottom Line
As can be readily seen, the symptoms for binge eating disorder and food addiction are similar. However, respective definitions for each disorder do distinguish them from one another. The bottom line: Binge eating disorder is defined as a behavioral compulsive disorder while food addiction is defined as a biochemical dependency.
In good health,
Content is the opinion of the author and does not constitute or is a replacement for medical advice.