What is Compulsive Overeating

Compulsive overeating is characterized by uncontrollable eating and consequent weight gain. Compulsive overeaters use food as a way to cope with stress, emotional conflicts and daily problems. The food can block out feelings and emotions. Compulsive overeaters usually feel out of control and are aware their eating patterns are abnormal.

Compulsive overeating often starts in early childhood when eating patterns are formed. Most people who become compulsive eaters have never learned a healthy way to deal with stressful situations and used food instead as a way of coping.

Being overweight can also serve as a protective function for some sufferers, particularly people who have been victims of sexual abuse. They sometimes feel that being overweight will keep others at a distance and make them less attractive.

The more weight that is gained, the harder sufferers try to diet and dieting often leads to the next binge, which can be followed by feelings of powerlessness, guilt, shame and failure. Dieting and bingeing can go on forever if the emotional reasons for the bingeing are not dealt with.

People suffering from compulsive overeating are well aware that they consume excessive amounts of food. Shame and embarrassment about their eating habits leads people to hide their binge eating from family and friends. Often, compulsive overeaters are very good at hiding their disorder, and often even close family members and friends are unaware of the eating disorder.

With the proper treatment, which should include psychological therapy such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), medical treatment and monitoring, and nutritional advice, sufferers can recover. Treatment may address obesity concerns; however, without addressing the underlying eating disorder, obesity treatment has limited effectiveness.