How My Anxiety Led to Binge Eating Disorder
It took a while, but my anxiety led to binge eating disorder (BED). It happened insidiously because I've always had a complicated relationship with food. I love to think, talk about, cook, eat, and share food. At times, I have treated it as my enemy, and at others, I have turned to it for comfort. I've always been an emotional eater, and whether I'm celebrating or commiserating, there's food for every occasion.
Food is a source of comfort for me, and I frequently turn to chocolate, chips, and ice cream in the face of emotional challenges. But when I suffered a severe anxiety crisis in 2017 that lasted several months and obliged me to take sick leave from my job, comfort eating turned into binge eating.
When Anxiety Led to Binge Eating Disorder
I can't pinpoint the exact moment when it changed. It was more like a gradual creeping. The worst moments were the afternoons and evenings when the grip of cravings drove me out of my home — where I was spending most of my time — in search of a way to satiate them. And, living in the center of Barcelona, temptation was on my doorstep.
My therapist diagnosed BED during a conversation about my body image issues. She helped me notice the correlation between my binges and anxiety. Understanding this link was the key to addressing my BED and regaining control over my relationship with food.
With the support of my therapist, the right medication, and daily meditation and movement, I recovered from my anxiety to a point where it was no longer debilitating within a few months. After a year and a half, I was able to come off my medication, and I have since been successfully managing my symptoms through holistic practices.
Getting to the Root of Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder often co-occurs with anxiety;1 and, to this day, I can still relapse into bingeing if my mental health — particularly my anxiety — becomes sufficiently unstable. It happened recently, at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe, when I spent almost three weeks alone in self-isolation.
Initially, I spiraled into the binge-shame-repeat cycle that characterizes BED. But, eventually, I remembered that I needed to address the underlying emotional issues in order to break the chain. I turned to my box of healing tools. I used meditation to look inside and bring awareness to the emotional pain driving my binges. I used journaling techniques to release blocked emotions, and I talked to my partner and a trusted friend.
This experience made me realize that binges are the canary in my emotional mine. My relationship with food is a barometer for my subconscious emotional state: when I have a balanced relationship with it, I'm usually balanced emotionally, too. When symptoms like cravings and binges start to show, I know I need to address their emotional roots in order to get them back under control.
If you suffer from BED, I encourage you to explore the possible causes with the help of a therapist or a trusted loved one. You may also want to consider exploring techniques such as meditation and journaling.
Does your binge eating co-occur with anxiety or another mental health issue? What tools and techniques do you use to cope? Let me know in the comments.
- Fielder-Jenks, C. M.A., "Binge Eating Disorder and Anxiety." Eating Disorder Hope, Accessed April 20, 2020.
Peel-Yates, V. (2020, April 21). How My Anxiety Led to Binge Eating Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/bingeeatingrecovery/2020/4/how-my-anxiety-led-to-binge-eating-disorder