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Binge eating disorder (BED) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders. It is a severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder. According to National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), it is characterized by “recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterward and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating.” Binge eating disorder is currently known to be the most common eating disorder in the United States. If left untreated, binge eating disorder and its associated symptoms could lead to severe short and long-term physiological consequences. 


Every individual is different and will require a customized treatment plan when it comes to recovering from binge eating disorder. There are many different mental health treatment options and a variety of therapeutic modalities used to treat BED. The treatment plan for an individual diagnosed with BED will be directly informed by several contributing factors, such as: how long he or she has been actively engaging in unhealthy eating habits, his or her personal health history, and the presence of any co-morbid disorders. The goal of treatment for individuals with binge eating disorder is to help them find a healthy and sustainable relationship with food. Many individuals struggling with binge eating disorders are likely to have dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) incorporated into their treatment plan.

Dialectical behavior therapy was developed by Marsha M. Linehan in the late 1980s, as a means to more effectively treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It is an evidence-based psychotherapy that emphasizes the psychosocial aspect of treatment. DBT remains the gold standard form of treatment for individuals diagnosed with BPD, and according to Behavioral Tech has been found to be effective in treating many other mental health conditions, including BED. DBT has a multifaceted, rigidly structured therapeutic approach that is comprised of weekly one-on-one psychotherapy sessions, weekly DBT skills training group sessions, and as-needed phone coaching. 

Each therapeutic setting has its own distinct purpose. The DBT group skills training sessions are facilitated by a qualified DBT provider and focus on teaching and practicing the four modules of DBT, which are: core mindfulness (focusing skills), distress tolerance (crisis survival skills), emotion regulation (de-escalation skills), and interpersonal effectiveness (social/ relationship skills). The one-on-one therapy sessions provide the individual in treatment for binge eating disorder the ability to co-create behavioral plans and goals surrounding mindful eating with his or her mental health clinician. Phone coaching provides an individual with twenty-four-hour access to support between sessions, should a crisis arise. The entire DBT program takes about six months to complete, as six weeks are allocated to each of the four modules. 

DBT can benefit an individual diagnosed with binge eating disorder by helping to foster self-management skills, lower stress, reduce anxiety, and learn to control destructive eating behaviors. The goals of DBT are to help a client learn to establish healthy coping mechanisms that can be applied to environments that would have otherwise provoked engaging in destructive eating behaviors. It helps clients learn how to reduce emotional reactivity and improve their interactions with others. DBT promotes acceptance and teaches skills to enable an individual to live in the moment and cope with emotional triggers that may otherwise perpetuate episodes of binge eating and other unhealthy symptoms and behaviors associated with BED.

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

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