CBT for binge eating disorder
Binge eating disorder is a less well known eating disorder than either anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and has been much less studied. The symptoms which give rise to a diagnosis of binge eating disorder are often described as "compulsive eating. Binge eating disorder involves repeated episodes of uncontrollable overeating which are not accompanied by self-induced vomiting or laxative misuse or other extreme forms of self-induced weight control behaviours.
Below Elizabeth shares her story:
I’m 26 years old and for the past eight years’ periods of highly restrictive eating, followed by binge eating, has been the defining feature of my life. While to a stranger I may look to have my life in order, having completed college and am now working for a well-regarded financial services company, this could not be further from the truth. Throughout these successes I’ve been consumed with thoughts of my relationship with food. Food or the lack of has been the singular thought at the foreground of my mind – either I was depriving myself and obsessing for hours at work over whether or not I would have chocolate that evening or I was in my “bad” phase and so eating massive amounts of sugary and fatty food, all the while feeling anxious and promising myself that I would soon get my eating in order.
In my first year of college I gained weight due to no longer having home cooked meals, the additional drinking and also the freedom to eat what I liked. This resulted in me entering a toxic cycle of restricting/binging which caused me to gain quite a bit more weight, which then fluctuated greatly. “Good” phases contained certain foods only for breakfast, lunch and salad or soup only in the evening – snacks weren’t allowed and I religiously attended gym classes. Going to bed hungry I would wake up in the morning feeling starved, emotionally very low and 100% preoccupied with food and what I was “allowed” to eat that day. This always led, in every instance over the eight years without exception, to a massive binge which would result in a period of uncontrollable eating.
During this “bad” period I would be in the shop straight after work (always hid my binge eating) buying a multipack of bars; these would be eaten on the way home where I would pop into my local shop and buy chocolate digestives, frozen chips, large packets of sweets/crisps and further multipacks of chocolate. These would be eaten in my room within half an hour or so, leaving me feeling uncomfortably full. While eating this my primary feeling was one of a complete lack of control, closely followed by absolute disgust with myself. Often, I would become upset, all the while still eating. Every time after the inevitable binge I promised myself “Next Monday I’ll do it properly” and I’d be so convinced that this time I could do it. 100% convinced. This time I’d stick to the diet, I’d lose a specific number of pounds by a given date (liked to give myself measurable goals) and naturally everything else in my life would soon follow suit and fall in to place. January 1st, after eating uncontrollably for the month of December, saw me make the usual commitments; loose X pounds, which would result in me overcoming my insecurities and shyness and finally allow me to have a relationship. Naturally, two weeks later I was in my room surrounded by discarded chocolate bar wrappings. Back to the start of the cycle, yet again.
That was when I decided “Enough is Enough”; I’d been putting my life on hold for the past 8 years. I couldn’t remember the last time I was confident enough to wear a dress, I was making excuses to avoid social occasions as felt so disgusted when I looked in the mirror and while all my friends were settling into relationships I was unable to hold a conversation whenever a man approached me on a night out.
From my first meeting with Ann she enabled me to see the destructive pattern I was following. Previously, I never made the connection between the emotional lows of a restrictive period and how waking up hungry it was always inevitable my emotions would rule the day and I would give in to my sugar cravings. With Ann’s guidance I see now how I was using my binge eating as almost a safety blanket – it allowed me to mentally justify putting stuff off until I was X pounds and avoid facing my underlying insecurities and fears. Now, through using a food diary and actually facing my difficult emotions in our sessions I finally feel like I am taking some control of my life. The past few months have been something of a revelation; I’m now eating balanced meals, without any mental accounting for calories and my body image has improved immensely. I’m never going to be perfect; previously I believed this was something I could strive for. This new acceptance has led to me feeling so much happier and content than I can remember.
I realise it’s only been a few months but I do feel my relationship with food has changed utterly. Ann was the first person I ever confided the true extent of my binge eating and feelings of inadequacy to. Making that decision to ask for help was key to my recovery and I would urge anyone who is debating reaching out for help to take that step.