Bingeing seems to be a commonplace part of 21st century life. It’s impossible to open the newspaper or an internet browser and not quickly come across a news story or an account of binge drinking, eating, spending or otherwise. In fact, it’s becoming so commonplace there’s the fear that binge consumption patterns are almost viewed as normal, with even an ‘Alcopop’ tax doing nothing to deter our teens.
As bingeing can have detrimental health consequences on both the individual (and society) being aware of key triggers that may lead to a binge episode is important to try and avoid, or at least contain the experience. Given that these key triggers may be connected to deeper problems; gaining awareness and insight into what may drive binge-behaviour may give you greater self-awareness and understanding.
Anxiety – when we feel worried or anxious about something going on in our life that is out of control, a binge episode can work to alter the neurochemical balance in the brain and generate a different mood state where you are less aware of your anxiety and therefore feel less threatened and more comfortable and relaxed.
Sadness – when we feel sad about something that is happening or has happened in the past and there is nobody to share this with, individuals can turn to food, alcohol or exercise to again reduce their awareness of their inner pain and sadness.
Anger – when we feel angry about how somebody has treated us, individuals can turn to excess shopping, gambling, eating or drinking to soothe their wounded pride and ego and help us cope with the often scary experience of knowing anger and rage internally. Most people do not learn adaptive ways of managing their anger and its emergence can make people feel extremely distressed and uncomfortable.
Failure – when we fail at something or don’t achieve to the standard we expect, a binge episode may follow as a way of consoling ourselves. Of more concern is when the binge episode occurs as a way of punishing ourselves for the perceived failure and actually exacerbates suffering.
Losing a job – losing a job can shake even the most confident individual’s self-esteem and sense of safety in the world. In order to cope with the damage inflicted on our ego, and the possible resulting anxiety and shame, going on a binge adventure of any sort is an extremely common way to avoid knowing the full extent of these feelings.
The end of a relationship – the end of a relationship can involve enormous feelings of guilt, anxiety, sadness, grief and fear. Experiencing such an array of emotions in an intensive way on an ongoing basis for days, weeks or months can lead to people seeking comfort from these difficult feelings through excess drinking, shopping, eating, sexual activity and gambling.
Feeling bad about yourself – had one of those days where you can’t do anything right, your partner seems irritated with you and you jump on the scales and you’ve put on weight even though you went to the gym five times last week? When we feel low and bad about ourselves, bingeing can trigger the release of chemicals that lift our mood and help us feel a bit better about ourselves.
Achieving something important – finally got that promotion? Finally got that pay rise or job you didn’t think you’d get? When we feel elated, there can be a temptation to augment these feelings further and to really let your hair down and feast on the good things in life.
Loneliness – human beings are social creatures and our brains are wired to desire and seek out relationships and connections with others. While feeling intermittently lonely and alone is a universal experience, there are many people out there who the world has seemed to have forgotten who experience incredible loneliness day in, day out. Eating, drinking, gambling, drugs and sex can help individuals decrease or completely avoid their lonely feelings so they do not have to face the devastating pain of feeling alone and uncared for.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Adam Szmerling is the founder of Bayside Psychotherapy practise in Melbourne and is a fully-qualified psychotherapist and hypnotherapist with over a decade of experience in practising in the Bayside area. Adam is a clinical member of the Australian Association of Buddhist Counsellors and Psychotherapists; the Australian Hypnotherapists Association and the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia. connect with Adam on Google+