Every parent can attest to the common experience of raising children and adolescents with their seemingly endless appetites. “They’re eating me out of house and home”, is a statement that everyone can relate to when it comes to feeding adolescents. Often the food you purchased in order to prepare a family meal is consumed before you can start to cook dinner. When children and adolescents experience growth spurts, they often have an increased demand for calories and nutrients to fuel the growth. This behavior is generally within acceptable expectations. You may have a gut feeling that your child’s behavior is outside normal and expected eating parameters. What is Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and How is it Different? Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by binge eating without subsequent attempts to purge, exercise, or compensate for the calories consumed. During a binge unusually large amounts of food are consumed in a short period of time. The binger typically feels guilty or secretive after the binge. They binge at least twice a week over a period of several months. People with Binge Eating Disorder have a tumultuous relationship with food. At first, the food may provide some comfort or help stop unhappy thoughts or feelings. As the binging behavior continues, feelings of anxiety, stress, shame and guilt take over. During a binge episode, the person feels out of control. Over time, the binges become a habit. Although BED can lead to obesity, many people with BED maintain an average weight. Kids and adolescents are often able to avoid weight gain associated with binge behavior due to the high levels of energy expended from participation in athletics or other physically demanding activities. There is little Binge Eating information available on how many kids or teens have the disorder for several reasons.
- The disorder has only been listed in the DSM-V as an official disorder since 2013, which limits the documented diagnoses data.
- Because most binge eating is done secretly and in isolation, even if a child shows symptoms of weight gain, parents may not realize the connection to binge behaviors
- Many adults who have been diagnoses with BED provide anecdotal information that they have struggled with the disorder since they were young, but weren’t diagnosed until adulthood.
Binge Eating Disorders affect both males and females, with up to 40% of sufferers being male. This is a marked difference from other eating disorders. Parents should be aware that sons are very susceptible to this disorder. There are Indicators that Separate a Healthy Appetite from Someone with Binge Eating Behaviors. Parents may start to see:
- Large amounts of food missing without a reasonable explanation.
- A pattern of a child eating in response to stress, anxiety, or emotional distress
- The child exhibiting feelings of shame or being disgusted by the amount they have eaten.
- Copious amounts of food wrappers that appear to be deliberately hidden in the child’s room
- A pattern of eating in private, late at night, in their car, or other unusual times and places
- Evidence that the child is lying about food consumption
- Use of the teen’s discretionary funds to purchase binge trigger foods
Parents should keep in mind that kids or teens may be very triggered by the feelings of shame related to being ‘caught’. This can cause strong defensive reactions, increased binge behaviors, or other acting out. What should you do if you suspect your child may have Binge Eating Disorder or any other eating disorder? Call your child’s doctor for a full physical to get a baseline picture of your child’s health and ask about binge eating prevention. Seek the assistance of a qualified mental health facility with the experience to handle the support, diagnosis, treatment and follow through to guide you and your child through this to a healthier life. If you have questions, call (928) 668-0906for binge eating prevention and information. The staff at Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders can help guide you to the appropriate resources for you and your child.