Written by Laura Bumberry, PsyD
While I have been out on maternity leave, I have spent my fair share of time catching up on some T.V. shows (yes, I actually just watched Lost for the first time a few months ago). There were times I even watched several episodes in a row. Terms like “binge watch” and “binge-worthy T.V.” have gained popularity lately, and it has me wondering what kind of impact this might have on those struggling with binge eating, a symptom of Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder, as well as our culture as a whole.
In my state of curiosity, I turned to the dictionary. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a binge as “a short period of time when you do too much of something.” I suppose this definition could describe both a marathon viewing of Orange is the New Black and an episode of binge eating, although there are certainly some significant differences between the two. In other definitions, the term “indulgent” is used frequently. This term greatly misrepresents what those struggling with binge eating experience. To me, the term “indulgent” implies pleasure, and while binge eating may provide soothing for some, it neglects the feelings of compulsion, guilt, shame and disgust that often accompany an episode of binge eating.
The use of terms like “binge-worthy” also encourages a culture of excess. Excessive use of almost anything can become a means of numbing oneself. Whether it is food, alcohol, T.V., shopping, internet use, or something else, these “binges” take us away from life. For some, this may be a welcomed escape and when used for brief periods may provide some stress relief. However, when these behaviors are repetitively used in excess, isolation, loneliness, reduced life satisfaction, and addiction can result.
Does our new use of the terms like “binge watch” and “binge-worthy” both glorify and minimize the seriousness of binge eating or other addictive behaviors? Does it encourage an unhealthy culture of excess? What are your thoughts?
Laura Bumberry earned her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Xavier University with an emphasis on child and adolescent psychology. She is a licensed clinical psychologist at Webster Wellness Professionals and provides treatment services for eating disordered behaviors. Dr. Bumberry has specialized training in evidence-based treatments, including Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Family-Based Treatment (FBT), also known as the Maudsley Approach. She treats children, adolescents, and adults, and has specific interest in the relationship between disordered eating, self-injury, and trauma-related issues.
Dr. Bumberry completed her post-doctoral residency at Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute’s Eating Disorders Program and Psychology and Religion Program where she provided services for eating disorders and weight management. She completed an APA accredited pre-doctoral internship at the Center for Behavioral Medicine in Kansas City, where she assisted in the development and implementation of inpatient DBT services, provided individual and group therapy with an adult inpatient population, and provided outpatient therapy for a variety of child and adolescent issues. She is currently under supervision to become a certified Family-Based Treatment provider. Dr. Bumberry is a member of the American Psychological Association, the St. Louis Psychological Association, and the St. Louis Eating Disorders Network.