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Compulsive Overeating
Dr. Spector treats compulsive overeating.

Everyone overeats occasionally. For example, someone has an extra serving of dessert at dinner, despite feeling full. However, people who suffer from compulsive overeating have a pattern of consuming an uncomfortably large amount of food in one sitting, without the ability to control their behavior. They use food to cope with stress, sadness, or other unrealized psychological difficulties. Affected individuals are often stuck in a vicious cycle of negativity and overeating.

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder. In the U.S., it affects approximately 3.5% of women and 2% of men. Binge eating is most common in adult women. Many compulsive eaters are overweight or obese, although some can be of normal weight.

Characteristics of Compulsive Overeating

Binging is characterized by:

  • Eating a large amount of food much quicker than normal, until uncomfortably full.
  • Eating a lot even without the sensation of hunger, and sometimes without even tasting or chewing the food properly.
  • Overeating when alone, followed by feelings of disgust, depression, and guilt.

Binge eating may be briefly comforting, but feelings of regret, guilt, and self-loathing quickly follow. Individuals who binge-eat often worry about the negative consequences of overeating. They feel tremendous guilt over their lack of self-control. The worse people feel about their eating habits and appearance, the more they might use food to cope. A vicious cycle develops: an individual eats to feel better, feels even worse afterward, and then turns back to food to experience a brief moment of relief.

Check to see if the following descriptions seem familiar:

  • Are you unable to stop eating or control your food intake? Do you rapidly eat large amounts of food, even when you are full?
  • Do you hide or stockpile food to eat in secret? Do you eat 'normal' amounts of food around others, but gorge when you are alone?
  • Do you eat all day long without a meal schedule? Do you feel like you are not really there when you are eating? Do you feel stress or tension that can only be relieved by eating?
  • Are you embarrassed by what or how much you eat? Do you feel guilty, disgusted, or depressed after overeating?
  • Do you have a desire to control your eating habits?

Treatment of Compulsive Overeating

Since binge eaters operate on impulse without conscious awareness of what is happening in the moment, they cannot change their behaviors on their own. It is very important for a person to seek professional treatment for binge eating.

Dr. Spector's treatment for the disorder addresses more than just the symptoms of an individual's eating habits. It also focuses on the root causes of the problem: the emotional triggers that lead to binge eating, as well as difficulties coping with stress, sadness, and other negative emotions. Clients learn how to control overeating and develop a health relationship with food. In some cases medication might be needed.