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Compulsive overeating is characterised by an addiction to food. An individual suffering from compulsive overeating disorder engages in frequent episodes of uncontrolled eating, or binging, during which they may feel frenzied or out of control. They will eat much more quickly than is normal, and continue to eat even past the point of being uncomfortably full. Binging in this way is generally followed by a period of intense guilt feelings and depression. Unlike individuals with bulimia, compulsive overeaters do not attempt to compensate for their binging with purging behaviours such as fasting, laxative use or vomiting. Compulsive overeaters will typically eat when they are not hungry, spend excessive amounts of time and thought devoted to food, and secretly plan or fantasize about eating alone. Compulsive overeating almost always leads to weight gain and obesity, but not everyone who is obese is also a compulsive overeater.

In addition to binge eating, compulsive overeaters can also engage in grazing behaviour, during which they return to pick at food over and over throughout the day. This results in a large overall number of calories consumed even if the quantities eaten at any one time may be small. When a compulsive eater overeats primarily through binging, he or she can be said to have binge eating disorder. Where there is continuous overeating but no binging, then the sufferer has compulsive overeating disorder.

Left untreated, compulsive overeating can lead to serious medical conditions including high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and clinical depression. Additional long-term side effects of the condition also include kidney disease, arthritis, bone deterioration and stroke.

Causes of compulsive overeating

In common with other eating disorders, there is a significant emotional element to compulsive overeating. Although there is no known exact cause, there are several likely options. Most sufferers of compulsive overeating use food as self-medication to cope with overwhelming emotions of shame and depression. Many feel guilty that they are "not good enough" and are ashamed of their increasing weight. Most have very low self esteem. Sufferers also frequently have a constant need for love and validation, which they attempt to satisfy with food.

Compulsive overeating normally begins in childhood, when eating patterns are formed. Most compulsive overeaters never learned effective ways to deal with stressful situations, and instead learned to turn to food as a way of blocking out painful emotions. Some compulsive overeaters consciously or unconsciously use excess body fat as a protective layer, particularly those who have been the victims of sexual abuse. They sometimes feel that being fat will make them less attractive, and therefore less likely to be abused further.

Although many sufferers of compulsive overeating try to combat their increasing weight through dieting, this can exacerbate the condition. Dieting can lead to feelings of deprivation, which the compulsive overeater is then driven to block out by further binging. Unless the emotional reasons for binging are not resolved, the sufferer frequently becomes locked into an unending cycle of dieting and binging, with the accompanying feelings of guilt, shame, self-loathing and depression that result.

Signs of compulsive overeating

  • Binge eating, or eating uncontrollably even when not physically hungry
  • Eating much more rapidly than normal
  • Eating alone due to shame and embarrassment
  • Feelings of guilt due to overeating
  • Preoccupation with body weight
  • Depression or mood swings
  • Awareness that eating patterns are abnormal
  • History of weight fluctuations
  • Withdrawal from activities because of embarrassment about weight
  • History of many different unsuccessful diets
  • Eating little in public, but maintaining a high body weight
  • A belief that life will be better, and they will be a better person if they are thin

Recovery from compulsive overeating

Compulsive overeating is treatable with counselling and therapy, and approximately 80% of sufferers who seek professional help either recover completely or experience significant reduction in their symptoms. All eating disorders are behavioural patterns which stem from emotional conflicts that need to be resolved in order for the sufferer to develop a healthy relationship with food. Like other eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, compulsive overeating is a serious problem and can result in death. However, with the proper treatment, which should include talk therapy, medical and nutritional counselling, it can be overcome.

Overeaters Anonymous

There is a twelve-step program called Overeaters Anonymous that offers support to individuals who are recovering overeaters. Important points of the programme are:

  1. Eliminating addictive substances from the diet completely. This includes alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and white flour, along with other items that are personal addictions, or triggers for binging.
  2. Not eating between meals AT ALL
  3. Developing, with support, a food plan that is well planned and balanced, weighed and measured, and sticking to it absolutely - Not one bite more, not one bite less.
  4. Eating your planned meals at regular times each day
  5. A. Writing down a food plan each day, for the following day, so that no time is needed to think about what is to be eaten today. B. This planning is best done after all that day's food has been consumed. C. Once written, not changed.

See also

External links

Overeating: Definition

Overeating: Description

  • symptoms
  • synonyms and related phrases

Overeating: History of the disorder

  • historical sources
  • famous clinicans

Overeating: Theoretical approaches

  • Overeating: Biological perspective
  • Overeating: Evolutionary-neurodevelopmental perspective
  • Overeating: Psychodynamic perspective
  • Overeating: Cognitive perspective
  • Overeating: Interpersonal perspective

Overeating: Epidemiology

  • Overeating: Incidence
  • Overeating: Prevalence
  • Overeating: Morbidity
  • Overeating: Mortality
  • Overeating: Racial distribution
  • Overeating: Age distribution
  • Overeating: Sex distribution

Overeating: Risk factors

  • Overeating: Known evidence of risk factors
  • Overeating: Theories of possible risk factors

Overeating: Etiology

  • Overeating: Known evidence of causes
  • Overeating: Theories of possible causes

Overeating: Diagnosis & evaluation

  • Overeating: Psychological tests
  • Overeating: Assessment isssues
  • Overeating: Evaluation protocols

Overeating: Treatment

  • outcome studies
  • Overeating: Treatment protocols
  • Overeating: Treatment considerations
  • Overeating: Evidenced based treatment
  • Overeating: Theory based treatment
  • Overeating: Team working considerations
  • Overeating: Followup

Overeating: For people with this difficulty

  • Overeating: Service user: How to get help
  • Overeating: Service user: Self help materials
  • Overeating: Service user: Useful reading
  • Overeating: Service user: Useful websites
  • Overeating: Service user: User feedback on treatment of this condition

Overeating: For their carers

  • Overeating: Carer: How to get help
  • Overeating: Carer: Useful reading
  • Overeating: Carer: Useful websites

Instructions_for_archiving_academic_and_professional_materials Overeating: Academic support materials

  • Overeating: Academic: Lecture slides
  • Overeating: Academic: Lecture notes
  • Overeating: Academic: Lecture handouts
  • Overeating: Academic: Multimedia materials
  • Overeating: Academic: Other academic support materials
  • Overeating: Academic: Anonymous fictional case studies for training

Overeating: For the practitioner

  • Overeating: Practitioner: Further reading
  • Overeating: Practitioner: Useful websites

Overeating: Anonymous fictional case studies for training

Eating disorders
Preliminary aspects
Eating attitudes |Feeding practices | Overeating | Binge eating |
Types of Eating disorder
Anorexia nervosa | Bulimia nervosa | Binge eating disorder | Compulsive overeating |

Eating disorder NOS | Pica |

Assessing eating disorders
[[]] | [[]] | [[]] |
Treating eating disorders
CBT | Psychotherapy | Family therapy

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