She says that overeating had enormous power over her because it allowed her to detach from her emotional pain.
“It was so hard to get my feelings out — feeling isolated, lonely, an amazing feeling of not coping.”
Like many people with binge eating disorder, De Sousa experienced bouts of binge eating followed by food restriction. These cycles can last for hours. She explained that overeating would force her to limit food out of guilt, but this in turn intensified the desire to relinquish control.
What are the signs of binge eating disorder?
A person with binge eating disorder has frequent episodes of eating a large amount of food in a short period of time (usually less than two hours). To meet the diagnostic criteria, seizures occur at least once a week for three months. Warning signs can be physical, psychological, and behavioral.
- Feeling out of control while eating
- Habits such as eating too quickly or eating even when full
- Extreme distress, sadness, anxiety, or guilt during and after a binge episode
- Feeling preoccupied with eating, eating, body shape and weight
- Covert behavior, such as hiding food or not wanting to eat around others
- Extreme dissatisfaction with the body and shame about appearance
- Low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, or irritability
- Increased sensitivity to comments about food and body shape or evasion of questions
- Irregular behaviour, such as stealing or spending a lot of money on food
- Increased isolation and withdrawal from activities you previously enjoyed
- Weight changes
- Feeling tired and not sleeping well
- Feeling bloated, constipated, or developing a food intolerance
Source: National Eating Disorders Collaboration
“It’s like a release,” she says. “And only once this episode of bingeing stops, you ‘come in’ and you realize what happened. And the guilt hits you like nothing you’ve ever had.”
She says her eating disorder has made her feel like a failure and that her relationships with family and friends have been greatly affected.
“I had no room left in my mind to deal with anything else,” she says. “I was always afraid someone would find out.”
About 1 million Australian adults live with the disease, but awareness is low in part because it has become officially recognized as a separate disease in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Diseases, says Professor Stephen Towes, director of the Inside Out Institute for Eating Disorders at the University of Sydney. 2013 turmoil.
At age 17, de Sousa was incorrectly diagnosed with bulimia nervosa. Both situations involve consuming a very large amount of food in a short period of time, but bulimia only involves purging to compensate.
Toys says this kind of confusion is one of the many ways people misunderstand binge eating disorder.
“It’s not just about ‘eating a lot.’ It involves eating very quickly, and eating when you are not hungry at all,” he says. “You have the inability to control what you eat. You cannot stop eating even if you wanted to.”
It took years for de Sousa to find the help she needed. She says she was repeatedly fired for treatment because her weight was not considered low or high enough. She says it’s a mistake to think that all people with an eating disorder are skinny or that all people with binge eating should be in bigger bodies.
“I never knew the intensity of my struggle would be measured in kilograms,” she says.
“I tried to take my life twice because I was at a point where I was like, ‘How much does a person need to struggle to realize that this is not a physical condition that you can see?'” “
Touyz says that people with binge eating disorder often report that their fears have been reduced by health professionals.
“Tell someone [with binge-eating disorder] Eating less is like telling an alcoholic… to drink less. Says.
Amy Woods, director of telehealth services in Victoria, says many damaging assumptions surround binge eating disorder, including the choice to overeat or to be driven by greed or laziness.
“Society tends to see people who may have binge eating challenges ‘because that person needs to lose weight or needs to go to the gym or needs to go on a diet,’” while that’s not the problem at all, says Woods.
“The emotions that emerge around food and eating are the primary challenge.”
A study by the InsideOut Institute and published last month found that it took an average of 10 years for someone with binge eating disorder to receive treatment, compared to two years for someone with anorexia. The authors note that people with binge eating disorder are more likely to be blamed for their illness and lack self-discipline.
“There are all these stereotyped statements, which is why not many people communicate,” de Sousa says.
The most important thing now, she says, is to spread the understanding of binge eating disorder. During COVID-19, there has been a sharp rise in the number of people with eating disorders. In 2020, there was a 25-50 percent rise in cases across the public health system.
Young people were particularly at risk. A Resolve survey of 16- to 24-year-olds found that more than a third of them had been dealing with eating disorder symptoms in the past two years, compared to 16 percent of those aged 25 and older. Symptoms of binge eating were the most common.
De Sousa runs an allied health business called Wellness Workshop, which provides one-on-one support and educational programs. She says inquiries about eating disorder support have grown by 600 percent during the pandemic and nearly four out of five of her clients have binge eating behaviors.
“[We have] “Parents are calling us over, so desperate,” de Souza says.
The 2022-23 federal budget included $24.3 million in funding for eating disorder services, which the sector welcomed. However, Toys believe there is a need for clinics that specialize in binge eating disorder to prevent people from falling through the cracks. He says the request is there. He co-authored a 2017 South Australian study that found a sixfold increase in binge eating behaviors over an 18-year period, rising from 2.7 percent in 1998 to 13 percent in 2015.
The treatment is very effective, Touyz says, and about half of binge eating disorder patients recover through psychological methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Medications can provide additional help.
Binge eating disorder treatment
- A range of psychological therapies are highly effective, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy, and interpersonal therapy.
- For adults, CBT has been shown to be most effective. Guided, evidence-based self-help can also help
- For children and adolescents, both CBT and family-based therapy are recommended
- In addition to treatment, medications may help. Vyvanse may be prescribed for binge eating disorder. It also treats ADHD, and is believed to help control the impulse to binge
- There is also some evidence for the use of antidepressant medications, as improving mood may prevent binge episodes
Source: InsideOut Institute for Eating Disorders
At 24, De Sousa is starting to get better. Disordered eating is, at its core, an unhealthy coping mechanism, and de Souza says she now has 20 different coping mechanisms — from exercise to listening to classical music — to manage emotional conflicts. You’ve also learned to practice intuitive eating, which involves trusting your stomach, not your brain, to make the decision about what to eat.
She knows she has come a long way. “Christmas was the most worrying day for me…the idea of having a table full of food made me terrified.”
While today, she is very in tune with what her body needs and eats consciously and freely.
“To be really honest, I didn’t actually know who I was before the age of 24. A lot of my sense of self was due to my eating disorder,” she says. “I’m learning who I am.”
Support is available from the Butterfly Foundation at 1800334673.
For 24/7 support in the event of a crisis, call Lifeline at 13 11 14.
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