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Can binge eating disorder be prevented?

Binge-eating disorder is a complex condition with multiple possible causes. There is no guaranteed way of preventing the disorder from developing; however, understanding the causes and learning to recognize the symptoms can help you identify the condition in a friend or relation. Discussing the issue or referring the person to a qualified health care provider can be the first steps towards recovery, and may even prevent a short-term problem from developing into a chronic disorder. There is evidence to suggest that recognizing and treating symptoms of bingeing in an adolescent or young adult greatly reduces their risk of developing an eating disorder and related complications later in life.

Brooke Randolph
Marriage & Family Therapy
There is no known prevention for binge eating disorder. Eating regular, healthy meals and snacks to prevent hunger, removing tempting junk food or binge triggers, and learning new techniques to manage stress may all help one avoid binges.
Donna Feldman
Nutrition & Dietetics

Binge eating disorder was recently recognized as a separate type of eating disorder diagnosis, with characteristics distinct from bulimia and anorexia.  In short, binge eating is out-of-control eating that has nothing to do with actual physical hunger.  During a binge, a person typically eats excess amounts of highly palatable food very quickly, until uncomfortably full.

People with binge eating disorder are typically obese.  Unlike a bulimic, the binge eater does not purge, so the excess calories turn into weight gain.  Guilt, disgust, shame and embarrassment are common feelings, yet the binge eater feels completely out of control and unable to simply stop the behavior.

The causes of binge eating disorder are not at all well understood, so no one can make specific recommendations to prevent the behavior.  Binge eaters may have underlying mood disorders, like depression or anxiety.  Bingeing on highly palatable food can be a form of self-medication.

Simple weight loss treatment is rarely the solution to binge eating, if the causes of the behavior are not addressed.  The person may just regain any lost weight, and feel even more guilt or distress as a result.  In many cases, psychotherapy is an effective first line of treatment.  The binge eater can learn to identify trigger situations and develop strategies for coping with those that don’t involve food.  Medications and support groups can be helpful for some people.  After the person develops effective coping skills, food choices and diet can be addressed more effectively.

While there is no known way to prevent binge eating, a healthy lifestyle of wholesome food, balanced diet, plenty of exercise and healthy personal relationships could reduce the risk for some people. If you believe you have binge eating disorder, or know someone who does, consult with a qualified psychotherapist who has experience dealing with this problem.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.