1. /
  2. Articles
  3. /
  4. Disorders & Eating Disorders
  5. /
  6. “Do I Really Lack...

“Do I Really Lack Self-Control?” Compulsive Over-Eating

by | Jun 20, 2009 | Disorders & Eating Disorders

Originally posted on http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/svp/uhs/eating/eating-selfcontrol.htm

What is it?

Compulsive over-eating is characterized by uncontrollable eating followed by feelings of guilt and shame. It is different from bulimia in that it does not involve any purging. While it inevitably results in weight gain, it is also not to be confused with obesity. Not everyone who is overweight has an eating disorder.

Why do it?

While people who compulsively over-eat are usually very preoccupied with issues of food, eating, and weight, their uncontrollable bouts of eating are an attempt to manage other hidden issues. That is, the compulsive over-eater uses food to cope with stress, upset, emotional distress, and other problems (i.e., depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem). However, the negative feelings blocked by the over-eating are only momentarily avoided, as the person inevitably feels guilty, shameful, and even defective about the over-eating.

How does it start?

Compulsive over-eating generally has a gradual beginning, often starting in early childhood when eating patterns are formed. It usually starts very subtly, with a child turning to food whenever she or he is upset. Over time, that person learns that food in fact will soothe the upset feelings. The destructive pattern continues as the person does not learn to trust that feelings pass and that she/he is capable of self-soothing without food.

Why is it so hard to stop?

Like someone with bulimia, the person who compulsively over-eats has usually tried every way they can think of to stop. Often the attempt at control takes the form of rigorous dieting or living by inflexible standards of eating. While strict dieting may help intermittently with the weight gain, in the long run it doesn’t do anything to remedy the emotional reasons for the compulsive over-eating. Moreover, restrictive dieting is so depriving that it creates a situation of compounded desperation to eat. Therefore, dieting often backfires and just perpetuates the compulsive overeating.

Misunderstanding and prejudice

Compulsive overeating has only recently come to be taken seriously and straightforwardly in our culture. Prejudicial impressions remain very strong. People with this kind of disordered eating are often stereotyped as lazy and gluttonous, or, at best, as having too big an appetite and lacking in willpower or self-control. Their pain is then overlooked not only by themselves but also by many of us.


Recovery is completely possible for compulsive overeaters through a gradual process of lifestyle change and with the help of others. Along with the medical, psychotherapeutic and nutritional assistance helpful to anyone with distorted eating habits, oftentimes groups such as Overeaters Anonymous are very useful.


Website: Overeaters Anonymous – http://www.oa.org



Related Post

Eating Disorders And The Stigmas That Come With Them

It's estimated that eating disorders affect around ten million Americans over the course of their lifetime, yet there is still so much that is misunderstood or simply not known about them. For many who suffer with these disorders, the guilt and shame that come with...

“Starvation” Dieting Does It Work?

The modern-day image of the stick-figure goddess has prompted millions of people to start counting and cutting calories. Already low-calorie diets are reduced to a bare three figures in an attempt to shed that extra pound or two a week. But surprisingly, cutting...

Seventeen, With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Look at me and you just might see an antisocial "freak" but what you do not know is the disorder that I have. I am seventeen and living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I got diagnosed with PTSD three years ago by a psychiatrist. I went to the psychiatrist...

“Five Pounds Less is Perfection”.

"Five pounds less, and you'd be perfect", started it all. When a professional dance trainer told me I'd be perfect for her school, just 5 pounds less, and I'd have it made for myself. So what do I do, I freak. First thought that races through my head, "You're...

Definitions & Explanations Of Some Disorders.

WARNING: Just because you may have symptoms of some of these disorders, it does NOT mean that you have them. Any suspicions you have should be taken to a doctor. DO NOT diagnose yourself. Dissociative Personality Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder) Dissociation...

Do You Have Trichotillomania? Do You Pull Out Your Own Hair?

What is "Trich"? Trichotillomania, or compulsive hair pulling, has many nicknames created by its sufferers, some of which include: Trich, Mister Trichster, Trich Monster (in reference to a trich theory), and more. Trichotillomania is the irresistible urge to pull out...

What is Beauty? – An Anorexic’s Tale.

For many years, I thought that I had done so many things wrong in my life that nothing good I did was worth anything. I kind of felt as though the good things I did were overshadowed by my many wrong doings. Publicly, I wrote this great facade of being this...