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Teen Health

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Teens and Binge Eating

What Are the Signs of Binge-Eating Disorder?

People with binge-eating disorder may miss school, parties, or social events so they can binge eat. At home, a binge eater may take food to his or her room, lock the door, and eat alone. Binge eaters may hide food under beds or in closets so no one knows they are binging. Some binge eaters are ashamed of their behavior and suffer tremendous guilt.

Family members or friends might notice the binge eater eating enormous amounts of food, even after finishing a large meal. During the binge, the person might eat very quickly, without even knowing what he or she ate. Those with binge-eating disorder also may have odd eating habits, such as eating food directly from a can or taking food from the garbage and eating it.

How Is Binge-Eating Disorder Treated?

Binge-eating disorder is best treated with a combination of approaches.

  • Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and insight-oriented therapy, can help people learn to recognize the thoughts and feelings that trigger binge eating.
  • Group therapy may help relieve feelings of shame about symptoms.
  • Self-help strategies such as keeping a journal and meditation can help people identify and tolerate difficult feelings and mood states that may lead to binge eating.
  • Nutritional counseling helps educate people about healthy food choices and, more importantly, about how to recognize the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger.
  • Certain medications such as antidepressants may be used to treat symptoms of depression.
  • For some people, medications can help regulate the urge to binge eat.

Can Binge-Eating Disorder Harm My Health?

Binge-eating leads to obesity, which is a major public health problem. Some 97 million Americans (65% of the population) are overweight, and half of them are obese. Many experts believe that binge eating and overeating "bad fats" (saturated and trans fats), carbohydrates (such as white bread and pastries), and sugar is largely responsible for this epidemic.

As with other eating disorders, binge eaters have a greater risk of serious illnesses. They include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, gallbladder disease, and some types of cancer.

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