Binge Eating Disorder : The Link between Mental Health Problems and Obesity

It’s not uncommon for obese people to attribute their excessive weight to their genes, which to some extent is backed by researches on obesity and genetics. Such studies suggest that genetics can influence factors that contribute to obesity like metabolism, food craving, fat distribution, and inclination to binge eat as a way to cope with stress.

Mental health experts focus on the trigger factors of unhealthy eating habits. There’s an oft used phrase in rationalizing the need to analyze mental and physical health:

“While genetics is responsible for loading the gun, factors present in the environment pull the trigger.”

Our genetic makeup affects our weight differently and is often dependent on how genetic traits surface on a person. Studies revealed that genes are accountable for a only portion of a person’s proneness to certain health disorders like binge eating. Those who have strong genetic susceptibility to obesity are usually individuals with blood relatives who are overweight and unable to lose weight even after various efforts to do so. Some grew up in environments surrounded by relatives who have been overweight most of their lives.

Obesity, BED and a Mental Condition Known as Alexithymia

Weight disorders do not always mean that the individual has an eating disorder. However, binge eating is now recognized as a disorder because it has been associated with mental health problems and obesity. Statistics show that ⅓ of obese individuals participating in weight loss programs have BED.

Binge Eating Definition and Why It’s a Mental Disorder

Binge eating is described as eating larger amounts of food within a particular length of time that is longer when compared to how long most people would normally eat during the day.

It was only in 2013 that binge eating was categorized as an eating disorder on its own in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Previously, binge eating disorder or BED was specified merely as a sub-classification of other major eating disorders, like bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.

However, medical investigations show that BED is actually connected to other psychiatric disorders. Moreover, medical records of more than half of individuals who have BED show they have a history of depression.

A particular study conducted by Italian researchers found that among the 80 patients recognized with BED, 10 attempted to commit suicide. Yet over 27% of the participants had entertained thoughts of ending their own life. The researchers also discovered that individuals with BED who demonstrated increased suicidal thoughts, are those suffering from a rare condition known as alexithymia.

What is Alexithymia?

Alexithymi is a mental health condition suffered by persons who have problems recognizing and communicating their emotions. Furthermore, they also have difficulties in focusing on their internal environment and at the same time, do not know the difference between bodily sensation and feelings. This includes satiation, or feelings of fullness, which is why most eating disorders are diagnosed as having higher levels of alexithymia.

Researchers mentioned that individuals with alexithymia develop eating disorders because they turn to bingeing and purging, to either cope or evade difficult feelings they cannot express.

Treatment of Binge Eating Disorder

BED and binge eating makes individuals susceptible to metabolic syndrome. One could improve their metabolism through a new weight loss program called metabolic renewal,

Metabolic renewal is a program that modifies a person’s meals and exercise routine; but dependent on a specific hormone type influencing the metabolic process of the subject. The goal is to identify the hormones that tend to increase levels of food cravings.

Although not yet backed by clinical studies performed by other researchers, those who have already completed the program shared positive results regarding weight loss achievements.