Causes Of Binge Eating Disorder

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Binge Eating Disorder (BEM), is a disorder that research has proposed to be a condition that stems from a culmination of factors, which two main ones involving a person’s biological makeup and their environmental upbringing. The disorder comes with behavior-altering symptoms that can affect an individual’s social life and school and job functioning. Recent developments in the field of psychotherapy and behavioral science have established multiple treatment methods that have been successful in remedy people diagnosed with binge eating disorder.

Donovan is a second-year undergrad student that is studying computer science at the University of Houston. His walking weight is at about ninety-four kilograms while standing at five foot six inches tall. He currently stays on campus at moody towers where his room is located in the north tower on the thirteenth floor. He has the 24/7 Gold Meal Plan where he is allowed to eat at the Moody Towers dining hall twenty-four hours a day, seven days out of the week during the semester. Currently, he drives a car and works at the front desk in the university center. His hobbies include playing video games, watching animated shows, and eating out. Four days out of the week with his friends, they would go to the campus recreation center to do a bit of cardio and lift weights. After every workout, they would stop by the smoothie king inside the facility and order a ‘meal replacement’ smoothie before heading on over to the dining hall and feast in the numerous selection of dinner items. Donovan would end up eating more food than usual while his friends would maintain their regular caloric intake and inform Donovan that overeating after a workout was a waste of that day’s worth of exercise. Donovan would refute that by claiming he exerted a lot of energy at the gym and deserves to eat a little more as a reward for his hard work. Majoring in computer science is known to be a rigorous course of study and as the semester goes on balancing school and his job becomes more difficult which leads to Donovan stressing more.

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During his upbringing, his parents never showed him affection, except for his other siblings. The only interaction between them was during meals at the family table, thus the association between food and comfort was established. Additionally, it was only once a day during dinner that they sat together and interacted. The accumulated stress from school, social life, and self-esteem eventually pushes him to the point where he needs some solace and given his childhood, he resorts to seeking it the dining hall. During the late evenings about an hour before dinner ends, Donovan sits alone in the dining hall and eats non stop until they close. Afterward, he lays in his dorm feeling extremely full and still stressed while feeling guilty afterward. This occurs every few days through the rest of the semester with Donovan gaining more body mass and slowly distancing himself from others. This continuation of events will pile up and increase his risk for anxiety and depressive disorders which will make it more difficult for him to get out of his current state.

Binge eating disorder was formally recognized in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013. Some descriptors for people diagnosed with the disorder are: eating a large amount of food that most people would consider dangerously disproportionate to the shorter amount of time on average that it took to consume, lack on one’s self control while undergoing an episode, eating at a much faster pace than usual, eating until one is uncomfortably full, eating even when one isn’t hungry, eating by oneself in fear of embarrassment and ridicule from others, and negative feelings such as disgust, shame, and sadness afterwards. For diagnosis of severity from the frequency of one’s binging, a mild level consists of one to three binging episodes per week to a much more extreme level at fourteen or more episodes per week. The type of food a person diagnosed with the disorder eat will change depending on the individual, the criterion to distinguish this is the abnormal amount of consumption rather than a typical craving.

With these traits compared to Donovan’s scenario, he tends to consume larger amounts of food more often than others. His late night stress fueled dinners where he is eating a large amount of food within an hour timeframe while secluded in the corner of the hall aligns with the description of eating any amount of food in a shorter amount of time that it would take a person on average as well as being alone when doing so. The aftermath of the episode results in a fleeting feeling of comfort but followed by guilt and returning stress from his initial stressors that are still present.

The causes for one to develop binge eating disorder can be a multitude of things. One biological facet refers to the genotype that is passed from parents to offspring otherwise termed as nature. Another environmental facet is upbringing in terms of their quality of life and impact from the people around them, or nurture. Based on research conducted by Bernstein and Kong, their aim for their study “were to determine whether specific forms of childhood trauma predict eating psychopathologies and to investigate the mediating effects of the psychological symptoms of depression and obsessive‐compulsion between childhood trauma and eating psychopathologies in patients with eating disorders, (Bernstein & Kong, 2009). The study involved seventy-three Korean patients diagnosed with eating disorders that participated in a handful of surveys including the Eating Disorder Inventory-2 and The Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. From these surveys, researchers can classify what abuse each participant was exposed to, such as sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, or physical and emotional neglect. Their results from the study revealed a correlation of exposure to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse during one’s upbringing to increase chances for developing an eating disorder.

In relevance to the previous scenario provided, Donovan’s relationship with his parents wasn’t healthy for his personal growth. The only interaction he had with them was during meal times together, which only occurred during dinner. This meant that the affection and comfort he seeked only came during dinner time which translates to his behavior in college where he eats uncontrollably during the evening at the dining hall. The emotional neglect Donovan experienced played a part in his current lifestyle in college.

The functional impairment that comes with binge eating disorder can lead a person to a deeper hole when left alone and untreated. People diagnosed with binge eating disorder exhibit certain behaviors that may negatively affect their quality of life. This can involve social interactions, romantic relationships, efforts in school or career, hobbies, and personal self improvement. In Donovan’s case, his frivolous intake of foods and disregard for his friend’s advice is a symptom of his disorder. Some examples are his consumption of a meal replacement smoothie that can come up to around a thousand calories a drink, his belief that he can eat more calories during a meal than he actually burned after working out, and his evening episodes in solitude at the dining hall. These actions will push people away while making himself harder to interact with will compound negatively for his performance in school and work while worsening his personal health.

Today’s current progress in psychopathological disorders has found several options for treatment with binge eating disorders. Some methods are Interpersonal Psychotherapy, Behavioral Weight Loss Treatment, and Guided Self Help based on CBT, Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Both Behavioral Weight Loss treatment and Guided Self Help have shown impermanent scaling down on binge eating in people diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder; Interpersonal Psychotherapy is also regarded as an effective treatment for those diagnosed with the disorder as well.

In a research conducted by Wilson et al, (2010), their objective was to see if people with binge eating disorder need more therapy than Behavioral Weight Loss Treatment and the effectiveness of Interpersonal Psychotherapy compared to BWL and Guided Self Help on CBT. The study was conducted at university outpatient clinics involving two hundred and five women and men whose body mass index fell within twenty seven to forty five and met the criteria to be diagnosed with BED. Their results found after two years that both IPT and GSHCBT had greater effects than BWL in remission.

Going into depth with one of these methods is Interpersonal Psychotherapy, IPT. it is a treatment following manual based therapy, which involves interventions following set rules that maximizes the success of each session for both therapists and clients. The treatment consisted of seven sessions. The first phase is in four sessions thats conducted to determine what caused the development and why the eating disorder is maintained. Following those sessions are three last sessions that focus on targeting the problem areas uncovered by the previous phase with the goal to review and implement ways for dealing with future problems that might reignite the disorder.

Results from the treatment found that “Patients reported both BWL and IPT to be more suitable than CBTgsh at session 1 (mean [SD] suitability score: BWL, 8.6 [1.7]; CBTgsh, 7.8 [2.1]; IPT, 8.9 [1.6]; F2,186 = 7.6; P < .001)... [with] IPT to be more suitable than CBTgsh at session 4 (BWL, 8.3 [1.8]; CBTgsh, 7.6 [2.1]; IPT, 8.7 [1.7]; F2,197 = 5.2; P < .01). Patients expected IPT to be significantly more effective than CBTgsh both at the end of session 1 (IPT, 8.4 [1.6]; CBTgsh, 7.5 [2.1]; F2,185 = 5.0; P < .01) and session 4 (IPT, 8.4 [1.7]; CBTgsh, 7.5 [2.2]; F2,187 = 4.3; P < .05).” (Wilson et al. 2010). These findings reveal that IPT targets the binge eating disorder directly through interpersonal review with trained professionals and illustrated the highest reviews based on patient’s experiences from participating in the study.


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