Eating disorders have captured the spotlight recently as rail-thin celebrities with their bones sticking out grace the cover of tabloid magazines. In their quest for thinness, and ultimately control, people with eating disorders take their weight loss efforts to an extreme that jeopardizes health – and sometimes their life. Eating disorders run the gamut from anorexia, where a person restricts calories to bulimia where eating binges are followed by vomiting or laxative abuse. Unfortunately, eating disorders such as these are surprisingly common and the numbers are on the rise. What is the most common eating disorder?
What is the Most Common Eating Disorder?
According to psychiatrists at Harvard, binge-eating is the most common eating disorder. What is binge-eating disorder? Binge-eating disorder shares similarities with bulimia. Binge eaters, like people with other types of eating disorders want to control their weight, but binge-eaters are prone to sessions where they consume massive amounts of food – usually high-carb foods.
After swallowing the last mouthful of food, binge-eaters feel extreme guilt for “falling off the wagon”. As a result, they may compensate by taking a laxative, vomiting or exercising for long periods of time. This becomes an endless cycle of binging and compensating that puts a great deal of stress on the body.
How Common is Binge-Eating Disorder?
Binge-eating disorder is surprisingly common. According to a study conducted by Harvard University Medical School, almost four out of every hundred women have this condition – and about 2% of men. Most binge-eaters don’t seek treatment for their condition, and, unlike a person with anorexia who may be visibly thin, binge-eaters are frequently overweight or obese because of their constant binges. Food becomes like a drug to the binge-eater – once they start eating they can’t stop. In rat studies, bingeing on high-carbohydrate foods alters opioid receptors in the brain – like a drug.
Unfortunately, most binge-eaters are “in the closet”. Many never seek help for their problem and suffer silently for many years with their “secret”. Unfortunately, the problem is growing in this country, thanks to the media’s focus on being “fashionably” underweight. Not surprisingly, the endless cycles of binge eating and guilt lead to depression and stress-related issues in many chronic binge eaters.
What’s the Most Common Eating Disorder: The Bottom Line?
Binge-eating is the most prevalent eating disorder in this country – and its victims usually keep a low profile. Fortunately, once a person comes forward, there is help available.
Biol Psychiatry. 2007 Feb 1;61(3):348-58. Epub 2006 Jul 3.