It’s unlikely that anyone who binge-eats thinks it is a healthy thing to do. In fact, most people who binge-eat would probably like to stop. But it is a disorder. It is often rooted in psychological and emotional problems. Stopping isn’t as easy as wanting to stop. In many cases, the person suffering from the condition would need to seek counseling and really put effort into therapy to understand the cause of their binge eating—since it’s a physical symptom of a deeper issue. I used to suffer from binge eating disorder, and I can say from personal experience that one thing that encouraged me to stop expressing my emotional pain in that physical manner was learning about some of the possible repercussions. I still needed to understand my emotional pain, but it was critical that I knew what I was doing to my body. Here are the risks of binge eating.
Type 2 diabetes
Even if diabetes does not run in one’s family, long-term binge eating can put one at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If one’s binge eating tends to involve high-sugar foods, the body cannot produce enough insulin to keep up with the sugar it’s being flooded with. When this occurs, one can develop insulin resistance, and then diabetes.
And diabetes is forever
Remember that, while some physical side effects of binge eating can be eradicated completely, diabetes is incurable. Even if someone with binge eating disorder gets better and ceases to binge eat entirely, she’ll still be left managing diabetes her entire life.
High blood pressure
Processed foods, as well as those high in sugar and sodium—common foods consumed during binge eating episodes—have the greatest negative impact on blood pressure.
High blood pressure causes other issues
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to more serious complications, like heart disease, aneurysm, kidney problems, and even memory loss. Some such events can leave a person permanently handicapped.
One obvious concern surrounding binge eating is the risk of obesity. If the individual binge eating does not purge after each session (a behavior that is also very dangerous), then obesity is a risk.
Obesity can lead to isolation
Unfortunately, when binge eating causes obesity, the obese individual can retreat from the world even further, wanting to isolate themselves due to body image issues. But isolation and loneliness tend to spur on more binge eating, so it is a terrible cycle.
If binge eating leads to obesity, then sleep apnea becomes a risk. Excess weight can lead to excess soft tissue of the mouth and throat. When a person is asleep, and the throat relaxes, this excess tissue can interfere with the airway.
Sleep disturbances cause other issues
When someone struggles to get enough sleep, this can disrupt their stress hormones in a way that increases the appetite. Sleep-deprivation can also lead to feelings of sadness, which can spur on more binge eating.
Obesity brought on by binge eating can also cause joint problems, as the pressure caused by excess weight can lead to arthritis.
Arthritis is forever
Arthritis, like diabetes, is another possible side effect of binge eating that is not curable. Should someone develop arthritis during a time in their life when they are overweight, they’ll still need to manage it when they lose weight—though losing weight can reduce the symptoms.
Should binge-eating lead to obesity, then gallbladder disease becomes a risk. When a person is overweight, it becomes increasingly difficult for the gallbladder to empty. At that point, bile becomes stagnant and can harden, resulting in what we know as painful gallstones.
Surgery may be required
While in some cases, medication can be used to shrink the gallstones, if the problem is severe, a doctor may recommend surgery to remove the gallbladder entirely.
Studies have found that women who report long-term binge eating are at a higher risk for amenorrhea (absence of a period) or oligomenorrhea (infrequent or irregular periods) than women who do not suffer from a binge eating disorder.
Sadly, irregular periods are linked to a higher chance of infertility. So should binge eating lead to missed or irregular periods, that individual may struggle to conceive later in life.
While depression is often the cause of binge eating disorder, it can also be a result of it. In fact, studies have found that binge eating disorder increases the risk of psychopathology including depression and personality disorders.