We all react differently to stress. Some of us become agitated, some of us fidget, and some of us stress eat. Help Guide explains stress eating – or emotional eating – as using food to make ourselves feel better. This means that we are eating to try and resolve our emotional rather than physical needs. Although eating when stressed can help us feel better in the moment, it doesn’t solve the problem. Occasional “pick me up” food is alright, but we must be careful so that it doesn’t become a habit. Binge eating disorder is a serious, life threatening and treatable disorder that should be taken very seriously.

Binge eating disorder, as defined by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food, often very quickly and to the point of discomfort. With this disorder, a person may eat alone due to feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating. Although both stress eating and binge eating disorder are unhealthy, there are key differences. For example, stress eating involves moderate to large amounts of food to ease one’s stress or anxiety, whereas binge eating disorder involves recurrent episodes of compulsive eating.

Dr. Sumati Gupta in a 2012 article in Psychology Today described a study conducted by North Dakota researchers who found that participants with binge eating disorder felt a greater loss of control over their eating habits compared to participants who did not have the disorder. With this, sense of control is a key difference between stress eating and binge eating disorder. According to Toby Goldsmith, MD from Psych Central, there are a few other differences:

  • Binge eating disorder episodes occur regularly, at least twice a week for six months
  • A person with binge eating disorder finds their eating episodes to be very upsetting, often feeling guilt, shame, embarrassment, and more. Stress eating typically does not involve emotional shame afterwards.
  • A person with binge eating disorder typically does not like to eat in public because they are ashamed of the large amounts of food they consume. Those who engage in stress eating may do so in front of friends or family members with no problem.
  • Binge eating disorder means that a person doesn’t eat based on feelings of hunger, but rather feelings of anger or sadness.

The amount of food consumed, the emotions before and after eating, the context in which a person eats, and how often a person eats a large amount of food are all deciding factors that differentiate stress eating and binge eating disorder.

If you believe you may have an eating disorder, call us today. New Vista Behavioral Health offers private, home-like rehabilitation facilities to help you get back on track in a secure environment. We personally care about your success. Call today at 866-855-4202 to learn more about how we can fit your needs.

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