Binge eating disorder describes a condition wherein a person frequently eats far more than they should, without feeling the urge to stop. Binge eating is different from occasionally overeating over the holidays, or going for seconds and thirds while being regularly active. When a teen has a binge eating problem, they are excessively overeating and consuming far more than is normal on a regular basis. To some, the line between emotional eating (or stress eating) and a binge eating disorder seems blurred, but a professional diagnosis can help explain the difference between the urge to occasionally cope through eating and a compulsion to binge regularly. At Visions Treatment Centers, our teen binge eating disorder treatment programs include a combination of behavioral therapy, interpersonal training, and a series of long-term changes emphasizing stress management, journaling, and other methods.

Signs and Symptoms of Teen Binge Eating Disorder

When binge eating disorder it’s possible to consume several thousand calories within a single meal – and teens with a binge eating disorder will do so at least once a week, for at least three months in a row. Extreme cases of binge eating can entail as many as 14 binge episodes within a single week. Binge eating can be defined as consuming abnormally large amounts of food for one’s size and activity level. Other symptoms of teen binge eating disorder include:

  • Describing oneself as having “low willpower” (compulsions to overeat)
  • Frequent pangs of shame and guilt, leading to low mood changes and anxiety
  • Social withdrawal
  • Fasting or skipping meals to “make up” for bingeing
  • Body dissatisfaction, extreme dieting

Binge eating disorder affects about twice as many people as bulimia and anorexia. The defining difference is that those with a binge eating disorder don’t turn to laxatives, vomiting, extreme fasts, or over-exercising to compensate for their binges. An estimated 2 percent of the global population may struggle with binge eating disorder, and it is far more common among teens with obesity (50 percent prevalence) and those seeking weight loss surgery (25-50 percent prevalence). Other physical conditions linked to binge eating disorder include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), sleeping issues (such as sleep apnea), and a greater risk of type II diabetes and heart disease.

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Bridging the Gap Between Teen Binge Eating Disorder Treatment and Recovery

Teen binge eating disorder carries significant physical and psychological risks and can thus be difficult to treat. Teens with a binge eating disorder may also be struggling with obesity-related health issues, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, mood disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome, and social withdrawal. To formulate an effective teen binge eating disorder treatment plan, we begin with a thorough assessment of a teen’s physical and psychological health, identifying the factors contributing to their behavior and exploring teen binge eating disorder treatment options such as:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Currently, research indicates cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most effective type of talk therapy for treating binge eating disorder. This type of therapy aims to help teens identify negative or destructive thoughts and behaviors, isolate them, and find effective ways to avoid or change them. Other forms of talk therapy used at Visions include dialectical behavior therapy, interpersonal training, and group therapy.

Lifestyle Changes

At Visions Treatment Centers, we prefer an approach emphasizing a total shift towards health and longevity, rather than obsessing over the scale. We work with teens to identify activities and coping mechanisms that are appealing to them. We then help them track their mood and behavior and remain cognizant of the urge to overeat. Other lifestyle changes may include better sleep, finding support groups or new friends to talk to, and making a shift toward balance with food.

Medication

A teen binge eating disorder may be linked to past trauma or a separate diagnosis. Medication can, in cases where it is warranted, help alleviate the thoughts contributing to the compulsion to binge. This is not always the case, but when binges are linked to consistent periods of depression, a regimen of antidepressants may help reduce the urge to overeat.

Because binge eating disorder is often linked with a variety of other physical and mental conditions, a long-term treatment plan is necessary. At Visions, we work with teens and their families to help connect with local specialists for continued treatment, as per your teen’s needs.