Binge eating & the brain
While binge eating leads to a number of overt physical problems, the psychological component of this disorder can be far more complex, and equally as dangerous. Proper treatment requires focusing on both the psychological and physical issues in order to bring about a full recovery.
The symptoms of overeating appear quite obvious:
- binge eating
- inability to control the amount of food ingested
- chronic dieting
- avoidance of eating in public
- feelings of worthlessness regarding weight and appearance
What occurs on a psychological level is a far more complicated issue and can be just as debilitating and severe as any of the medical consequences.
In the case of binge eating, the most serious medical side effect is the purging of food that occurs after a binge session. Some sufferers ingest laxative tablets while others induce vomiting in order to rid themselves of their massive intake of food. The bowel and dental damage resulting from such actions can become lifelong health issues.
Compulsive over-eaters share many psychological symptoms with those who suffer depression but the feelings of worthlessness are concentrated on image rather than personality. Over-eaters become obsessed with their appearance and engage in dangerous eating behaviours in an attempt to reach a size and weight they believe is correct. Unfortunately, this satisfaction is never found and the feelings of guilt and shame that spring from the imagined failure start a new cycle all over again.
Researchers at Emory University have conducted recent studies to uncover the reason for the sharp increase in obesity across all age groups since the 1970's. Scientists set out to show that the consumption of calorie-rich foods has a direct link to psychological stress and social pressures. The study found that individuals chronically exposed to psychologically stressful situations and environments over-consumed calorie-rich foods to an addictive degree while those who were comfortable in their social situations felt no such compulsions.
This would suggest that the treatment for compulsive overeating lies in the brain and while the immediate results are physically noticeable, it's the change inside that leads to recovery.
Overeating treatment centres are a stress-free environment in which patients can regulate their food intake and receive therapy for their addictive behaviours. Medication and surgery can be utilised in extreme cases but without treating the root problem, symptoms can return.