Many people use emotional eating to cope with boredom, stress or sadness. Food cravings often hit when a person is experiencing negative emotions. They may use food to provide comfort against stress and negative emotional states. Emotional eating may be a sign of an eating disorder. In spite of this, it does not always mean that a person has an eating disorder if they engage in emotional eating. Binge eating disorder treatment can help a person with an eating disorder gain control over emotional eating. There are a variety of treatment options available at binge eating treatment centers to help a person achieve emotional and nutritional balance.
What Is Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating refers to eating in away or eating certain foods that help soothe negative emotions, such as loneliness, sadness or fear. Stress can affect eating habits. Some people eat less when they are upset. Other people eat more when stressed. Although emotional eating can sabotage a person’s health and lifestyle goals, it does not necessarily indicate that the person has an eating disorder. Emotional eating often occurs with certain eating disorders. For example, research has found that people with binge eating disorder are more likely to have a binge eating episode after experiencing negative emotions.1 However, to be diagnosed with an eating disorder, signs and symptoms other than emotional eating must be present, as well.
When Does Emotional Eating Cross The Line Into An Eating Disorder?
Binge-eating disorder is a serious mental disorder that involves eating large amounts of food in a short period. The person feels out of control and unable to stop eating during the binge episodes. Binge-eating episodes are often preceded by negative emotions or events. Emotional eating does not necessarily mean that a person has a binge eating disorder. However, emotional eating combined with the following symptoms could be a sign of a binge-eating disorder.
- Frequent (an average of twice weekly) binge-eating episodes during which much larger amounts of food are eaten
- Eating large amounts of food when not hungry
- Eating much more quickly than normal during the binge-eating episodes
- Eating to the point that it is uncomfortable or physically painful
- A feeling of loss of control during the binge-eating episode
- Eating alone during the binge-eating episodes
- Feeling disgusted, shamed or embarrassed during or after binge eating episodes
- Feelings of shame or embarrassment surrounding the binge-eating episodes.
What Are The Treatments For Binge-Eating Disorder?
Binge-eating disorder treatment centers offer multi-faceted treatment to address both the emotional and physical aspects of an eating disorder. Components of binge-eating disorder treatment may include:
- Psychiatric assessment and care – During binge-eating disorder treatment, the person will have a psychiatric assessment and meet with a psychiatrist to address emotional needs.
- Co-occurring disorders treatment – Many emotional disorders like depression and anxiety occur at the same time as an eating disorder. These disorders, if left untreated, can also contribute to emotional eating. Co-occurring disorders treatment addresses both the eating disorder and the co-occurring mental disorder at the same time. Addressing both disorders increases the likelihood that the person will become fully-recovered from a binge eating disorder.
- Nutritional restoration and therapy – Nutritional restoration helps meet the person’s nutritional needs. Sessions with a registered dietitian can help the person learn and practice using balanced meal planning approaches to nutrition.
- Individual psychotherapy sessions – Binge eating disorder therapy helps address the emotional aspects of a binge-eating disorder. The person may learn to identify thoughts and emotions that contribute to binge-eating episodes. They also are taught more adaptive ways to cope with negative emotional states.
Binge eating disorder recovery is possible. Binge eating disorder treatment can help reduce emotional eating, improve self-esteem and make it easier for a person to achieve a balanced approach to nutrition and wellness.