Is characterized 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 behaviors 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 behavior, 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.
Some Symptons of OCE are:
- 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
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. Some sufferers of compulsive overeating use food as self-medication to cope with overwhelming emotions of shame and/or depression. This self-medication may not only provide the emotional comfort of the act of eating, but may have the physiological effect of making the person feel "drugged," sluggish, sleepy, or relaxed, and focused on nothing but the sensation of fullness. This is especially the case when a large amount of sugar or other processed (refined) carbohydrates are consumed. Some compulsive overeaters feel that they are "not good enough". Some feel ashamed of their increasing weight. Some have low self-esteem.
Compulsive overeating sometimes begins in childhood when eating patterns are formed. Some compulsive overeaters do not learn effective ways of dealing with stress or painful emotions. Instead, they learn to turn to food in an attempt to diminish 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. Some victims feel that being fat will make them less attractive and by that less likely to suffer further sexual abuse.
Although many sufferers of compulsive overeating try to combat their increasing weight through dieting, this may exacerbate the condition. Dieting may lead to feelings of deprivation, which the compulsive overeater may attempt to block by further binging. If the emotional reasons for binging are unresolved, the sufferer may become locked into a cycle of dieting and binging. Accompanying feelings of guilt, shame, self-loathing, or depression, may result.