Compulsive Eating Disorder

When many people hear the term “eating disorder,” they tend to think about anorexia or bulimia. This is due in great part to the media coverage of these two disorders and the impact they have had on celebrities. While these two conditions are certainly dangerous, statistics show that compulsive overeating or Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is actually three times more common than bulimia and anorexia combined

Diagnosing America’s Most Common Eating Disorder

In spite of being the most common eating disorder in America, BED is sometimes missed by healthcare providers. Primary care physicians (PCPs), in particular, sometimes have a difficult time recognizing BED because they are not familiar with diagnostic criteria for BED. Because BED is not always recognized by healthcare professionals, it is often a friend or family member who notices unhealthy eating patterns developing. 

Fortunately, Fairwinds Treatment Center has successfully diagnosed and treated compulsive eating, anorexia, and bulimia for decades. Our team members know how to distinguish between these three disorders and are dedicated to helping you address the underlying emotional pain that is contributing to your compulsive overeating. If we confirm a diagnosis of BED, we will develop a customized care plan to help you eliminate your unhealthy eating habits and replace them with normal eating behaviors and coping mechanisms.

The Difference Between Compulsive Overeating and Binge Eating Disorder

If you are like most people, you may periodically eat a second serving of food or enjoy an extra scoop of ice cream. And there may even be times when you eat such a large meal that you feel a bit uncomfortable. An occasional bout of overeating is not abnormal. But if you repeatedly find yourself consuming large quantities of food and experiencing depression or guilt afterward, you may be a compulsive eater or have BED.

While the terms compulsive eating and binge eating are often used interchangeably, Binge Eating Disorder is considered to be a bit more severe and has its own diagnostic designation. While compulsive overeating is considered a form of disordered eating, BED is distinct and severe enough to warrant its own diagnostic code in the DSM V. 

Recognizing the Warning Signs of BED

The first step in the treatment process is to learn how to recognize the signs of BED. By understanding the signs and symptoms of BED, you can determine whether you or a loved one might be carrying the disorder. Here is a look at some of the most common signs of BED:

  • Significant up-and-down fluctuations in body weight
  • Consumption of large amounts of food in a short period of time
  • A lack of comfort eating food around other people
  • Stealing or hoarding food in odd places
  • An increase in gastrointestinal complaints such as stomach discomfort
  • Experimentation with food and new diets
  • Resistance to eat in public or around other people
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and work colleagues
  • A preoccupation with body shape and weight
  • Strange food rituals, such as limiting food intake to one type of food

If you notice any of these signs in yourself or a loved one, the best thing to do is to reach out to the Fairwinds Treatment Center team. One of our eating disorder specialists can speak to you about your symptoms and recommend a course of treatment that will help you overcome them.

How Binge Eating Disorder Differs From Bulimia

Binge Eating Disorder is sometimes mistaken for bulimia because both disorders involve the consumption of large quantities of food within a short period of time. Additionally, people with BED and bulimia report feeling “out of control” during their binge eating episodes. People with both conditions may also experience guilt, embarrassment, or low self-esteem. 

The key difference between BED and bulimia is the absence of purging behaviors among people with BED. While people with bulimia vomit or abuse laxatives and diuretics to purge their bodies of excess food, people with binge eating disorder refrain from those behaviors. Instead of purging, people with BED often severely restrict their food intake after they binge. 

Why Seeking Treatment Early Is Important

The path to a full recovery from BED begins with prompt treatment. Through early intervention, you can minimize the risk of long-term health problems and maximize your odds of long-term treatment success. Seeking treatment as quickly as possible is important for three key reasons:

1) BED is a severe condition that can eventually become life-threatening

Failure to treat BED can lead to a host of damaging long-term physical health complications. Examples include heart disease, arthritis, bone deterioration, stroke, and kidney disease. Given the severity of these problems, swift treatment is a must. 

2) People who seek treatment early increase their odds of a full recovery

Compulsive overeating behaviors can turn into harmful habits if they are left untreated. As these habits become more deeply ingrained, an eating disorder can become more resistant to treatment. However, with early intervention, you can dramatically boost the odds of a complete recovery.  

3) Early intervention may uncover co-existing mental health problems that require treatment

People with BED are more likely than the average person to suffer from depression and anxiety. Eating disorder specialists are trained to screen for these disorders and other mental health conditions. The faster you seek care, the faster any co-existing problems can be diagnosed and treated. 

A Comprehensive Approach to Treating BED

At Fairwinds, we recognize that people with BED often struggle with a variety of underlying psychological and emotional challenges. No two patients are exactly alike, and every treatment plan is tailored to meet the needs of each individual patients. Our comprehensive treatment for eating disorders involves five key elements:

  • Secure residential treatment in a comfortable, medically supervised setting
  • Nutritional services such as menu planning, therapeutic meals, and educational classes
  • Psychological and emotional support from trained eating disorder specialists
  • Multiple levels of care, including inpatient, residential, outpatient, and partial hospitalization
  • Guidance from trained professionals such as medical doctors, therapists, and registered dietitians

In addition to these treatment elements, we may recommend family therapy or group therapy.  These sessions are usually held on a weekly basis and are facilitated by a trained therapist. The support and involvement of family members can be a key difference maker in a person’s ability to refrain from sliding back into their old compulsive eating habits. 

What to Expect From Treatment for Compulsive Eating and Binge Eating Disorder

Seeking treatment quickly is vital to boosting the chances of a recovery. When evaluating treatment options, it is important to select a specialist with a proven track record of success providing treatment for eating disorders. Treatment for compulsive overeating is most effective when overseen by a seasoned psychiatrist with decades of experience helping individuals recover from eating disorders.

Fairwinds Treatment Center is pleased to offer treatment for binge eating disorder. For decades, we have delivered personalized treatment for eating disorders. While a person’s exact treatment plan will depend on the severity of their condition and the presence of other health-related disorders, there are some common threads that run through our programs. Here is what you can expect when you seek treatment for compulsive eating or BED:

  • Initial Assessment: When you arrive at Fairwinds, an attending physician and registered dietitian will weigh you and assess your health. 
  • Diagnosis: Based upon your weight, physical and mental health status, and presenting problem, you will receive an initial diagnosis.
  • Treatment Plan: We will prepare a personalized treatment plan that is based upon your diagnosis. 
  • Therapy: To address the underlying pain and factors contributing to your eating disorder, we will provide individual and/or group psychotherapy.
  • Meal Planning: You will receive guidance and meal planning support from our registered dietitian.
  • Monitoring: Our treatment team will monitor your progress and eating behaviors to measure your progress with your treatment plan.
  • Discharge: If you successfully complete your residential or inpatient treatment, you will be discharged. Outpatient therapy is often recommended.

While our treatment team will handle all of the treatment facets listed above, it is up to you to fully participate in your therapy appointments, meal planning exercises, and treatment team meetings. Through your dedication to improving your health and our efforts to help you eliminate your binge eating behaviors, you can regain control of your compulsive eating habits. 

Florida’s Most Trusted Eating Disorder Treatment Center

Binge Eating Disorder is a serious eating disorder marked by excessive food consumption within a short period of time. People with BED are more likely than people without an eating disorder to suffer from depression or anxiety, and are at increased risk for a variety of physical health complications. Fortunately, you can minimize these risks by seeking treatment from a trusted eating disorder treatment center.

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a binge eating disorder, the counselors at Fairwinds Treatment Center are here to help. With treatment programs developed by nationally recognized board-certified psychiatrists, Fairwinds uses clinically proven methods to help men, women, and teenagers overcome their destructive binge eating behaviors.  We encourage you to contact us right away to boost your chances of a fast, full recovery. 



If you are ready to discuss treatment for yourself or a loved one, the Fairwinds admissions team is here to help.

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