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June 28, 2023

How to Screen Your Patients for Binge Eating Disorder

How to Screen Your Patients for Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the United States and can lead to chronic health consequences if left untreated. As a healthcare provider, it is essential to screen your patients for binge eating in order to identify the disorder early. Referring your patients to a specialty care program that addresses the unique challenges of BED can mitigate health risks and improve the likelihood of full, long-term recovery. 

How to Assess for Binge Eating Disorder in Your Patients

Binge eating disorder is a serious mental health condition characterized by repeatedly consuming large amounts of food within a short period, often accompanied by feelings of distress, guilt, and loss of control. Binge episodes are not followed by compensatory behaviors like purging or excessive exercise, making BED distinct from other eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa.

Many people experiencing binge eating may feel ashamed or embarrassed about their eating behaviors. Consequently, they may not openly disclose their symptoms unless prompted directly. By adopting a non-judgmental approach and fostering a safe, supportive environment, you can help patients feel comfortable sharing their experiences.

Take the following steps to effectively screen for binge eating in your patients:

  1. Open the conversation and inquire about eating habits. Start the dialogue by inquiring about your patients’ eating habits. Specifically, ask whether they have episodes of consuming substantial amounts of food in a short timeframe and whether they experience a loss of control during these episodes. Our Eating Disorder Assessment Quiz contains these questions and more to assess a range of eating disorder behaviors.  
  2. Assess emotional and psychological symptoms. Binge eating often triggers feelings of guilt, shame, or depression. Evaluate your patient’s mood, self-esteem, and overall mental health to better understand the impact of their eating behaviors on their emotional well-being and the impact of their eating behaviors
  3. If you suspect an eating disorder, refer the patient to specialty care. If you are concerned about binge eating in one of your patients, we strongly recommend referring them to an eating disorder treatment provider for further evaluation and care. 

The Benefits of a Treatment Program Dedicated to Binge Eating 

CARE IOP (which stands for Cultivating Awareness and Resilience with Experience/Eating/Emotions) is The Emily Program’s virtual intensive outpatient program for adults with binge eating disorder or OSFED with a pattern of binge eating. This standalone binge eating treatment program is tailored to the unique needs of those struggling with bingeing. 

It can be challenging for those with BED to heal when surrounded by people with restrictive eating disorders, as the lived experiences of these disorders can vary immensely. Here are some ways in which a treatment program that focuses on BED can provide tailored support:

Addresses the Intersecting Challenges of Binge Eating Disorder 

Binge eating disorder often co-occurs with psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, or trauma. When these co-occurring conditions are left unaddressed in treatment, those struggling with BED face worse outcomes for both conditions. The Emily Program is committed to treating the whole person, addressing each component comprehensively for lasting recovery.

In addition to the comorbid psychological conditions, BED often comes with different intersectional issues that need recognition. Our CARE IOP program features a comprehensive curriculum that responds to clients’ intersectional identities with topics such as self-compassion, counteracting internalized weight stigma, body appreciation, and health-promoting behaviors. 

Provides Structured, Tailored Support

Binge eating disorder is often accompanied by feelings of a loss of control and internal chaos. CARE IOP’s structure is designed to help relieve the distress of this chaos with highly tailored interventions.

CARE IOP’s virtual programming is four days a week, three hours a day, and offers patients structured support in the form of skills acquisition groups, individual therapy, therapeutic supported meals, and weekly nutrition education and psychoeducation groups. Our multidisciplinary team of BED experts can guide your patient through the recovery process and help them in developing healthy habits and coping mechanisms to feel more comfortable with eating. 

Offers a Safe and Supportive Environment

The virtual format of The Emily Program’s CARE IOP program allows patients to attend programming from the comfort and safety of their home. Along with others who understand and can empathize with their struggles, patients can find support and validation in a nurturing online environment.

While not all people with BED live in a larger body, 87% of individuals with BED have lived in a larger body at some point in their lives (da Luz, Hay, Touyz, & Sainsbury, 2018). Negative beliefs and assumptions about people in larger bodies permeate every aspect of our culture, making recovery in a higher-weight body especially challenging. In our specialty BED program, we educate on the very real weight stigma in our society, how individuals can combat it within themselves, and how to cultivate self-compassion to find the recovery we know is possible. 

Binge Eating Disorder Treatment at The Emily Program 

A wide range of consequences—including strained relationships, low work or school performance, and a declining social life—can result from binge eating disorder. CARE IOP’s targeted, comprehensive binge eating treatment can empower your patients to reclaim a peaceful relationship with food and eating, improve their mental and physical health, and enhance their overall quality of life.

As a healthcare provider, you can make a lasting impact by identifying and addressing binge eating early. Reach out to The Emily Program at 888-364-5977 if you’re concerned about your patient or to learn more about our specialized care options and referral process.



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