Tips for Parents
Understanding Compulsive Overeating Disorder
Compulsive Eating Disorder or Binge Eating Disorder is defined as a "type of eating disorder not otherwise specified and is characterized by recurrent binge eating without the regular use of compensatory measures to counter the binge eating," according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).
An article in Psychology Today explains that, "Compulsive overeating might be the most common eating disorder in the United States — where as many as 4 million adults struggle with this disorder, and the rates are said to be higher among the severely obese. Although most people with this problem are overweight to obese, binge eating disorder is a little more common in women than in men."
Signs & Symptoms
Binge eaters tend to eat past the point of being full at a frenzied pace, says NEDA. They also eat secretly and feel ashamed after bingeing. Most binge eaters have low self-esteem, are depressed and/or lonely. Other symptoms may include:
- fear of not being able to control eating and, while eating, not being able to stop
- isolation — fear of eating around and with others
- vague or secretive eating patterns and hiding food in strange places (closets, cabinets, suitcases, under the bed) to eat at a later time
Binge eaters face many health risks if this disorder goes untreated, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart disease, diabetes and gallbladder disease.
If You Suspect Your Student is Struggling
NEDA offers some tips on how to caringly confront a student who may have an eating disorder:
- Never assume someone has an eating disorder without speaking to him first. When you talk with him, make sure you schedule enough time so you both don't feel rushed during the conversation.
- When talking with your student, be direct and have specific details to share so that she understands your concern. Use active listening skills since she may share personal information about her problems.
- Be available to your student, but don't feel like it is your responsibility to serve as his "counselor." Encourage him to tap into campus resources like the counseling center where trained professionals can help him work through his eating concerns.
Not every person who overeats or is overweight has an eating disorder. It's just important to know about a variety of issues, including compulsive overeating disorder, so you can tune into what your student and/or her friends may be experiencing.
Sources: Adapted from an RA Manager article (February, 2008) by Kelly Espy, Emory & Henry College; The NEDA website at www.NationalEatingDisorders.org, Michael Levine, PhD and Linda Smolak, PhD.; Psychology Today, Oct. 12, 2005
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