Why Do I Binge Eat?
Aimee can trace the signs of her binge eating all the way back to high school. She used to come home from track practice, and pick out favorite sweets from the snack cupboard before her mother got off work. She’d take more food than she could eat at one time, so she stashed the rest in secret places around her bedroom for later.
Now Aimee’s disordered binge eating has grown so out of her control, she feels constantly stressed and ashamed. It often feels like her life is centered on food—avoiding it, craving it, and over eating it. Aimee wonders how long binge eating will drive her life. Why is this happening to her?
When a binge ends, you see remnants of the food you’ve consumed around you. You may be feeling sick and disappointed, and find yourself asking, “Why?” It doesn’t seem to make sense—you didn’t sit down and rationally decide to binge eat. You never wanted to feel the way you do now.
How did food get the power to make you feel ashamed and out of control?
Researchers are working hard to get to the bottom of binge eating disorder. They’ve discovered a lot of important things about why, how, and with what foods you binge.
There are four important factors that intersect, when you feel powerless to stop eating.
Episodes of binging are often spurred by depression, anxiety, and stress. Binge eating helps numb discomfort and pain—even if just for a little while. The psychological drive to binge eat is strongest when your depression or anxiety lingers untreated. It makes sense that if you don’t have the tools to deal with confusing emotions, you’d look for comfort and distraction where you know you can quickly find it.
The psychological reasons for binging can act like a powerful whirlpool, swirling around you and keeping you trapped inside its dense walls. You feel more depressed after binge eating, eventually leading you to binge eat again. You’re all too familiar with the feelings of pain that follow an episode, and the resolutions you make, already believing you won’t keep them.
Other psychological reasons might be every day triggers. If you’re feeling bored, bingeing can be exciting and pleasurable. Bingeing can also be a way of giving yourself a break if you have little time for yourself. Are you stuffing your anger or feelings of shame? A therapist can help you explore your emotional triggers and find alternate coping strategies.
Before regret and embarrassment set in, binge eating can feel like a real high. Afterward you might wonder, “Was that really me?” Binge eating feels like a dream state partially because fat and sugar release the feel-good, addictive chemical, dopamine.
Dopamine helps explain why you feel compelled to binge eat, and unable to stop: Your brain craves the rush of dopamine, and needs more and more to feel the same high. Low levels of dopamine also lead to a rise in compulsive behavior, such as binge eating.
If you’re prone to feeling down about yourself—something that wouldn’t be too surprising in a culture that most often equates appearance and materialism with social value—it makes sense that you’d often find yourself seeking out a temporary fix.
Whether it comes from family, friends, TV, or within yourself, the pressure to be perfect can lead you to binge in order to quell constant anxieties about not being good enough.
Food rules, periods of restriction or black and white behaviors around food can trigger binge eating. After a period of deprivation or restriction, even if you just skipped breakfast, your hunger can return with a vengeance. The more you restrict, the stronger your cravings will be.
How can you stop binge eating?
Bingeing doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Simply trying to understand why you binge eat is an important first step. Whatever the reasons you believe you’re binge eating, know that it can be really hard to get better on your own—and that’s okay.
Talking to a therapist about what’s going on in your life can help you sort through the difficult emotions you’re pushing aside with food. Support groups can also help you feel a lot less alone with the struggle to stop binge eating. There are many different treatments available that can ultimately help you stop believing food is your only answer.
Get Help for Binge Eating
Working with a therapist can be a key component in recovery from binge eating disorder. A therapist in Houston can help you understand emotional, physical and cognitive triggers and develop new coping strategies. Participate in our 12-week group program to go in depth on making lifelong peace with food, mind, body & emotions.
Contact us to find out more about individual therapy for binge eating. To get started now give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.
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