Teen Binge Eating Disorder Treatment

Teen binge eating disorder is a clinical syndrome in which a person chronically over-eats, as a means of coping with mental or emotional discomfort or stress. Teens with binge eating disorder regularly eat an excessive amount of food very quickly, with no control, and often without feeling full. These binge periods are followed by excessive guilt and shame, contributing even more harm to an already low sense of self-esteem. Binge eating is often connected to other mental disorders, including depression and anxiety, or rarer mental health issues.

What Does a Binge Eating Disorder Look Like?

  • Teens with binge eating disorder often overeat and feel as if their eating habits control them.  They often have no control over how much or how often they eat, and after eating, feel extremely embarrassed and bad about themselves.
  • The excessive amount of food which teens eat can lead to weight gain and other related health problems, and yet, even amidst such consequences, teens won’t be able to curb their eating behaviors. Another way to describe binge eating disorder is as a “food addiction”, although addiction is arguably not the right way to describe an eating disorder.
  • Because embarrassment is one of the symptoms of binge eating disorder, teens will go out of their way to hide their behavior from others.  This may result in things like hiding food, or over-eating in secret, eating after everyone has gone to sleep, or finding places to eat alone.

Signs of a Binge Eating Disorder

Eating very quickly

Eating alone or in secret

Feeling disgusted or embarrassed after eating

Diabetes

High blood pressure

Sleep apnea

What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?

There is no definitive cause for a binge eating disorder, but in most cases, binge eating begins as a response to stress or pressure. Some people start binge eating as a way to cope with social pressure at school, including bullying or relationship problems. The resulting weight gain often leads to more bullying, which starts a vicious cycle.

Other people might gain weight during stressful times at work, using food as a way to cope with overwhelming stress. Binge eating might also begin as a result of stress through other mental health issues, like depression or anxiety. Overall, binge eating disorder is biopsychosocial, with a variety of possible factors.

Runs in the family – statistics show that people with eating disorders usually happen to have relatives that also struggle with similar disordered eating, suggesting either that something genetic causes people to feel predisposed toward using food as a way to cope with stress, or it may be a matter of learning behavior through exposure to certain attitudes towards food. Children might learn to cope with stressful situations by seeing how adults in the household do it, through alcohol, or food, or other maladaptive coping mechanisms.

Mental health and binge eating – anything from the pain of loss or stress of a deadline to the pressure of dealing with a mental health disorder like major depression can push someone to start binge eating as a way to feel a little better, even if only temporarily. Food is a common short-term solution to emotional pain because eating releases chemicals in the brain that make us feel good, as part of our evolutionary drive to eat to survive.

Medication and binge eating – some medications or psychiatric treatments may drastically affect appetite as a side effect of the treatment. It may be that binge eating begins as a behavior caused by an abnormally increased appetite, and that this spirals out of control for other reasons, including stress.

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2/3

people who struggle with binge eating disorder are obese

1.6%

of adolescents is diagnosed with binge eating disorder

30%

of people looking for weight loss treatments exhibit symptoms of binge eating

How Can I Help My Teen with Binge Eating Disorder?

Help your teen establish healthier food behavior – don’t dictate what your teen should be eating, but instead, be there to assist them in exploring healthier food options and better manage the way they eat. After treatment, teens will often be tasked with maintaining a healthier relationship with food. Your teen will know what they need to do in order to avoid binge eating, so just offer your help, like helping out while cooking, or going shopping with them.

Be active with your teen – more than just exercising together or engaging in other active behavior, consider finding ways to have fun without food. It could anything from a trip into the outdoors to a game night, going out to the movies once in a while, or walking the dog(s) together.

Keep in touch with your teen’s doctor – sometimes, you won’t be sure how to react to a certain situation, or you might feel out of your depth in regard to helping your teen navigate their treatment after a program has ended. It’s important to maintain contact with healthcare professionals who are aware of your teen’s case, so you can ask questions knowing they understand the circumstances of your teen’s mental and physical health.

What Types of Binge Eating Disorder Treatment Are Available?

Binge eating disorder is necessary something you treat through any single pill, therapy, or treatment. It often takes several different treatments combined into a “holistic approach” to elicit the right results.

Holistic just characterizes any approach that takes the whole into account rather than individual parts, considering a teen’s struggles on a mental, physical, and social level. As such, their treatment needs to address issues experienced throughout every facet of a teen’s life, all of which possibly feed into their binge eating disorder.

Medication

As mentioned, a pill can’t “cure” a binge eating disorder, but there are certain medications that can be prescribed to help manage binge eating. In cases where the underlying cause of binge eating is a serious anxiety or depressive disorder, antidepressants can help teens better address their issues and develop healthier ways to cope with them.

Lisdexamfetamine, more commonly known by its brand name Vyvanse, is a stimulant sometimes prescribed specifically for binge eating disorder and ADHD. Although it’s not completely understood why, taking the medication seems to lower a person’s likelihood to binge eat.

Therapy

Talk therapy might be considered the primary treatment for binge eating disorder and involves helping teens find ways to identify the urge to binge eat, and replace it with other behavior, as well as practice ways to identify and subvert other forms of negative thinking. Forms of talk therapy like CBT or DBT are excellent at treating binge eating disorder.

Alternative Treatments

Aside from medication and talk therapy, there are alternative treatments that might help a teen. Exercise regimens, yoga, meditation, and relaxation techniques to relieve anxious thoughts are all valid ways to tackle binge eating disorder by taking on a symptom or underlying cause, or amplifying the effects of therapy.

Teen Binge Eating Disorder Treatment at Paradigm Malibu

Residential teen binge eating disorder treatment first focuses on helping teens address their over-eating behaviors, while implementing and overseeing lifestyle adjustments through diet and exercise. Change is intimidating, and in the case of a holistic approach as per Paradigm Malibu, wholesale change in many different ways can feel overwhelming at first.  However, therapists provide comfort and support throughout the process, helping teens fit in better.

Therapy at Paradigm

The therapists at Paradigm Malibu help teens to evaluate and address what possible stressors or conflicts are present in their lives. This aspect of treatment is crucial in helping teens understand why they use food the way they do.  By helping teens recognize what other needs or wants they may have, progress can be made toward developing healthier ways to deal with stress.

Our therapists also help work with teens on any other behaviors or belief systems that may be connected with their over-eating, especially such as strong feelings of embarrassment, shame, or low self-worth.

Getting Together for Treatment

Paradigm Malibu implements group therapy and family therapy sessions into teen binge eating disorder treatment.  This can be an especially useful time for both the teen and their family members to communicate together with the help of an objective, outside party, to make plans together about how to continue treatment at home.  In group sessions, teens often feel understood and less lonely through recognizing that others struggle with similar issues. This can provide a sense of hope and confidence for lasting change.

Paradigm saved me. By far the best experience I've ever had

– Olivia H.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Binge Eating Disorder

Is the goal of teen binge eating disorder treatment to lose weight?

No. At least, not necessarily. The goal of binge eating disorder treatment is to treat binge eating disorder. It is to help teens tackle the underlying reasons for their behavior, and develop a healthier relationship with food, as well as utilize better coping tools for any forms of stress.

About two thirds of people who are diagnosed with a binge eating disorder are obese, and more are overweight. Binge eating is not healthy, and as the numbers say, often points towards unnecessary and potentially hazardous weight gain. Treating binge eating disorder can lead to weight loss, but that is not the goal of such treatment.

That being said, therapists and doctors will encourage teens who are overweight to lose weight, as well. This is because a high body fat percentage is clearly associated with various physical and mental risks, from chronic pain and depression to strain on the heart. In this sense, weight loss might be part of a holistic treatment approach that includes binge eating disorder treatment as a way to help teens address and deal with various problems and issues in their life.

What’s the difference between binge eating and overeating?

Binge eating is a behavior that directly ties into an emotional trigger, with eating being used as a response to pain, to cope with stress, or to feel good. When binge eating, a person is trying to deal with something hurtful inside by indulging in food as a form of “self-medication”. Reaching for food as a way to feel better is not anything new, and it’s often not actually a disorder. Many people might order take out or get some ice cream if they’re feeling particularly bad, once in a while.

It only becomes indicative of a problem if it’s part of a self-destructive pattern. Answering every challenge and stressful situation with unhealthy amounts of food shows a binge eating disorder and indicates something serious.

Overeating, on the other hand, is generally eating more food than is physically needed. A person who regularly overeats might also struggle to feel full, either due to psychological health issues or due to a physical problem with appetite regulation and fullness. Overeating may be indicative of an eating disorder, and can lead to physical health problems stemming from obesity, but it is different from binge eating, or from a binge eating disorder.

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