7 Myths of Binge Eating Disorder – Dr. Julie Friedman

Separate binge eating disorder myths from facts with these 7 myths of binge eating disorder. From Julie Friedman, Ph.D. of the Compulsive Overeating Recovery Effort (CORE) program at Insight Chicago.

Binge eating disorder is now the most common eating disorder in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

With 2.8 percent of our population experiencing a lifetime prevalence of the disorder, (and this number doesn’t even reflect the mass number of cases that go undiagnosed), binge eating can cause serious health issues if undertreated for a long period of time.

Since a formal diagnosis of binge eating was only officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association three years ago, Americans often lack awareness or are misinformed about binge eating disorder.

Julie Friedman, Ph.D., director of the Binge Eating Treatment and Recovery Program, shares with us 7 myths about binge eating disorders:

  1. Binge eating can be controlled by willpower. It is common for those with binge eating disorder and/or their families to think that with motivation, the person will recover. This is not true. Patients come in thinking that they have to "buckle down." But binge eating has genetic, physiological, dietary, behavioral contributors and requires multi-disciplinary care. That means it must be treated from a psychiatric standpoint, a medical standpoint and a behavioral standpoint.
  2. Binge eating disorder is made better by dieting. Calorie restriction, skipping meals, skipping snacks or eliminating food groups can all make binge eating worse.
  3. Binge eating disorder doesn’t require specialized eating disorder treatment. Over half of binge eating disorder patients never received treatment for their eating disorder. Many more attempt to get help with a registered dietitian or general clinician. While both of these professionals are extremely valuable, they are often not enough. Binge eating disorder should be treated by someone who specializes in eating disorders.
  4. Binge eating disorder isn’t dangerous. The disorder puts someone at an increased risk for medical issues that include lipid problems, diabetes, GI problems, metabolic syndrome, non alcoholic fatty liver, and weight problems/obesity.
  5. Binge eating disorder is about the food. Life and relationships are stressful, and treatment of binge eating disorder is about helping manage and cope with the stress in healthy ways. One needs to teach patients how to tolerate feeling bad without using food.
  6. Binge eating disorder can be cured by exploring the deep roots of childhood trauma. While it is definitely helpful to understand factors that might have contributed to the disorder, talking about why you are sad isn’t enough. The disorder must also be treated by working directly on eating behaviors and changing them.
  7. Binge eating disorder will go away with weight loss. Binge eating disorder is not a weight problem. Many people struggle with obesity and do not have a comorbid eating disorder.

Friedman said symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Frequent overeating, at least once a week for three months
  • Eating more rapidly than normal
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry
  • Eating alone because you are embarrassed at how much you are eating
  • Feeling disgusted, depressed or guilty after eating

Fortunately, binge eating disorder can be treated effectively but only if the patient is able to identify that they have an eating disorder and seek professional help.

If you think you or someone you know is suffering from binge eating disorder, please reach out to Eating Recovery Center at (877) 920-2902, where you can chat confidentially with one of our specialists.

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Julie Friedman, Ph.D. is the Vice President of the Binge Eating Treatment and Recovery Program (BETR) at Insight Behavioral Health Center. Insight Behavioral Health Center has locations in Illinois and Austin, in partnership with Eating Recovery Center. 

Jackie Pilossoph writes for Insight Behavioral Health Centers and Eating Recovery Center.

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