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Binge Eating Depression – Causes and Treatment

by nina on May 4, 2011

binge eating depressionAccording to the According to the National Mental Health Association One third to one half of people with eating disorders report struggling with depression and anxiety.

However it is unclear whether the depression leads to binge eating or whether the eating disorder is triggering the binge eating depression.

Last week a reader asked about binge eating depression that is possibly the result of not getting the binge eating hits and highs that we once got. These are some challenging eating disorder topics that quite often require talking with a therapist or finding an alternative way to manage the depression and learn to treat it without resorting back to food.

I have asked Dr Ashley Solomon, Psy.D,  a therapist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness to answer the question and shed some light on the causes of binge eating depression and possible treatment.

Binge Eating Depression Reader Question:

I am now climbing out but I am struggling with depression as a result of not getting the highs from the binges. I am hoping this will pass? Did you find the depression lift, and how long did it take?

Dr Ashley Solomon:

This is a really wonderful question. People who struggle with binging, with or without purging or other eating disorder behaviors, are all too familiar with the highs induced by a binge episode.

There are both psychological and physiological reasons for the perceived highs.

Psychologically, binging is a way that we can truly escape from all that is weighing on us emotionally. It provides a means of transporting ourselves to what some people even describe as euphoria.

The problem is that many people have the experience of the binges not producing the same highs after a while.

Like when we use other substances, sometimes we can become tolerant of the food where the food no longer takes us as far away from the feelings we’re dealing with. We might have larger or more frequent binges, or we might just feel numb or flat instead of high.

But back to the reasons we feel high.

Physiologically, we can experience a rise in our blood sugar when we binge and a release of feel-good chemicals in our brains, especially when we binge on carbohydrate-rich foods.

So the highs that you experience have very real causes – meaning it is in fact going to be difficult when we are no longer experiencing them.

We can feel low or even depressed, and we start to feel all of the other emotions that we have before numbed out with binging. The depression may or may not lift on its own.

Many people start to experience a more stable mood once they have their eating disorder symptoms under control. Our brains simply work better and the neurotransmitters (those feel-good chemicals) even out, stabilizing our mood.

But for many people who struggle with eating issues, there was a mood issue prior to or underlying the eating issue. So it may require more intensive treatment of the depression itself to help you feel better.

This might involve therapy directly targeted toward treating the depression or taking psychotropic medication, such as anti-depressant medication. If you think you have a problem with your eating or your mood, or both, I would recommend seeing a mental health professional to be assessed and receive assistance.

It’s not something you need to manage alone!

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Thanks Ashley for your insightful and informative response. You are absolutely right – it is not something anyone has to manage alone. Seek help if you feel that your depression is affecting your life and learn to treat it in healthy ways that will boost your self esteem and teach you new self care tools.

Ashley Solomon, Psy.D also runs an amazing blog, Nourishing the Soul which deals with issues related to disorted relationships with food, body image, eating disorder recovery and healthy living.

You can also find Ashley of Twitter and Facebook.

Nina Vucetic

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