Eating under stress calms the nerves, distracts and at least gives the feeling that something stressful is pushed into the background. However, the combination makes you permanently ill. The risk of a Binge Eating Disorder (BES) increases. We explain what this is all about and what role stress plays in this disorder.
What is Binge Eating?
As with anorexia or bulimia, binge eating is a disease of the body that is Eating Disorder. This is expressed by uncontrolled eating fitswhich take place at regular intervals. The amount of food exceeds what one would normally eat many times over.
Also daily, uncontrolled excessive eating without fixed meals can be a sign of binge eating disorder. Doctors measure whether one is affected by it by the number of days on which eating fits occur.
Symptoms and diagnosis
People with a binge eating disorder, also known as eating addiction, are often but not always overweight. Conversely Overweight not necessarily attributable to binge eating. Whether one has a Binge Eating disorder, doctors do not therefore necessarily recognize from the Body Mass Index, but especially from factors that affect eating behavior. The American Psychological Association (short: APA) summarizes the Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder as follows:
Uncontrolled eating fits occur at least once a week over a period of three months. Furthermore, at least three of the following statements must be true in order to diagnose a binge-eating disorder:
- People eat considerably more than usual.
- The quantities of food are so large that the food is uncomfortable feeling of fullness, stomach pain or nausea causes.
- Even if they are not hungryPeople with a binge eating disorder consume large amounts of food.
- Affected people eat out of shame because of the large quantities they consume, mostly alone.
- After the eating fits people affected are disgusted with themselves, feel depressed and guilty.
- The eating fits are not accompanied by compensatory behavioural patterns, such as vomiting or taking laxatives, as is the case with active anorexia or bulimia.
Unlike anorexia or bulimia, there are two types of binge eating disorders No independent diagnosis yet. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM for eng.: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) it is classified by the physician as F50.9 (eating disorder, not specified).
Mental illnesses in this classification are considered to be not yet sufficiently researchedto assign an autonomous diagnosis to them. Sometimes a binge eating disorder is also classified as F50.4. This diagnosis means that eating attacks are associated with other mental disorders, such as corollary of Burnout or in connection with traumatic events occur.
How does stress trigger eating fits?
The latter classification of the binge eating disorder shows that it can partly be a side effect of other psychological disorders or a consequence of stressful experiences. Triggers of a Binge Eating disorder are different from time to time. However, it can be assumed that the cause of a disorder is usually geneticThis is not only psychological, but also social factors.
For example, people from families with multiple mental disorders are more likely to develop mental illness at some point. However, problems in the family or partnership can also lead to an eating disorder. Stress, which usually goes hand in hand with such problems, is often considered the cause of uncontrolled eating attacks.
A look inside the human body shows why this is so: in stressful situations the cortisol level in the blood rises. The body gets on the alert and draws energy from fats and sugar. In addition, the insulin level rises and blood sugar drops. An excessive hunger for sweets and fatty dishes that raise blood sugar levels develops. Chronic stressThis can lead to the body being permanently on alert and trying to balance this with a corresponding need for nutrients.
How stress and binge eating are related
According to this, eating contributes to relaxation during acute stress. However, this is only of short duration and is unsuitable as a long-term measure for stress management. The difference between mentally stable people and people with binge eating disorders is that the latter Using food permanently as a means of coping with stress.
In addition to the uncontrolled consumption of food to cope with stress, food addicts usually suffer from a negative body image. Like a Investigation by the Universities of Tübingen, Trier and Freiburg from 2018 shows, stress seems to have a significant influence on the body image of food addicts.
In the study of the stress-related dissatisfaction of the body of women with a binge eating disorder, both those affected and psychologically stable people were subjected to a stress test. While stress had no effect on the body perception of the control group without eating disorder, the body perception of the study participants with a binge eating disorder deteriorated.
Do therapies for stress management help with binge eating disorders?
Considering the connection between stress and binge eating, it seems to make sense to use stress management as part of the therapy. However, in the treatment of eating disorders it is essential to use this not to be treated unilaterally. For example, the NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) recommends cognitive behavioural therapy or an interpersonal therapyto reduce the number of eating incidents.
Cognitive behavioural therapy
In cognitive behavioural therapy, affected persons cover stressful ways of thinking and behaviour patterns and learn to change them. In dealing with stress, for example, such behavioral therapy could be used, Weaknesses in dealing with stress revealed and modified accordingly.
Interpersonal therapy, on the other hand, focuses less on approaches and behaviour, but rather deals primarily with the immediate social environment of the person concerned. Interpersonal therapy focuses on events or occurrences that are directly related to the illness of the person concerned.
These may include Grief, loneliness or social conflicts be. The aim of the therapy is to reduce symptoms and to cope with stress factors both emotionally and in terms of action.
In addition to the two forms of therapy, self-help therapies can also help those affected to achieve controlled eating behaviour and a better body image.
Text: Natalie Grolig
- Arnold, Melanie. Information paper on eating disorders. Bavarian Academy for Addiction and Health Issues
- Naumann, E., Svaldi, J., Wyschka, T., Heinrichs, M., & von Dawans, B. (2018). Stress-induced body dissatisfaction in women with binge eating disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 127(6), 548-558
- Zwan, M.d., Friederich, H.C., Binge Eating Disorder In.: Therapeutische Umschau vol. 63, issue 8 (2016), Verlag Hans Huber, Hogrefe AG, Bern
- Federal Ministry of Health
- Neurologists and psychiatrists on the net. The information portal on mental health and nervous disorders.