The societal understanding of Binge Eating Disorder (BED) has had an impact on medical diagnosis and treatment. Binges are seen largely as a clinical term to describe overeating rather than the symptom of eating very quickly an amount of food much larger than a meal in a very short period of time. The distinction is very significant. Even though BED is now one of only three eating disorder diagnoses, most people mistakenly view this illness as justified gluttony.
The increase in binging in recent decades stems from two changes in our daily lives: sanctioned starvation through dieting and the abundance of addictive, processed foods. Starvation through restricting leads to excessive, uncontrolled hunger in many people. Even once better nourished, the hunger frequently takes months or years to diminish, and regular dieting without cease can mean the intense hunger never goes away. Also many people are susceptible to the addictive qualities of processed foods, namely added sugars and fats, which increase the likelihood of binging.
In a society searching for a pharmaceutical cure to human limitations, many people seeking help for BED simply want a medication to fix what most people call the "chemical" cause for their illness. The pharmaceutical industry has added to this belief by viewing BED as a new frontier, approving Vyvanse last year despite minimal evidence of long-term benefit. Rather than look for a treatment plan for recovery, people with BED more than any other eating disorder have been primed to only seek a quick fix, as if their symptoms are just a chemical deficit rather than a full-fledged eating disorder.
The reality is that people with BED need a comprehensive treatment plan including therapy, nutrition counseling and medication just as anyone else with an eating disorder. Distorted views about binging and about the fantasy of a magical cure seem more accepted for BED, but that belief leaves these patients much more hopeless and without reasonable expectations for treatment. It's crucial for patients with BED to be treated as thoroughly as anyone else with an eating disorder.