Binge Eating and Problem Gambling: Does One Feed the Other?

binge eating disorder

Researchers are increasingly interested in the question of whether there is a link between problem gambling and binge eating. If someone struggles with a gambling problem, will they develop a binge eating disorder? And could someone with an eating disorder be more likely to delve into a life of problematic gambling? These are undoubtedly tough questions to answer, but if researchers can get to the root of the issue with these two disorders, better help can be provided to struggling individuals.

People With Binge Eating and Gambling Disorders Share Similar Traits

In the quest to find out if individuals with eating disorders can develop gambling disorders (and vice versa), researchers discovered that people with either disorder showed signs of poor impulse control. These individuals want to feel good, and they’ll do anything to achieve that feeling, even if there are negative long-term consequences involved, such as losing one’s life savings or developing chronic health issues. The more they participate in binge eating or gambling behavior, the more their decision-making becomes less sound. They need to eat more or place higher bets to feel the same satisfaction they experienced when they first started.

In addition to having lower impulse control, individuals with eating disorders, gambling problems, or both disorders show a stronger tendency to act without thinking when they are experiencing negative emotions. This personality trait can get them into trouble, as they may be more inclined to participate in binge eating or gambling rather than addressing the real issue — talking with their loved ones about the fight they had, seeking professional guidance for their grief, or finding a way to forgive themselves for a mistake they made.

It’s also important to note that both binge eating and gambling disorders can grow in severity. Before they know it, individuals with these disorders will no longer be able to control their binging or gambling behaviors. They’ll become so preoccupied with food and placing bets that everything else will fall by the wayside, including their familial relationships, finances, and physical health. Some studies have even shown that patients with gambling and eating disorders were more likely to develop drug use disorders, depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and other mood disorders.

The Real Reason People Binge Eat and Develop Gambling Problems

While there haven’t been any studies directly linking binge eating to problem gambling (or vice versa), it’s clear there is a connection between the two disorders. Regardless of whether an individual binge eats, gambles uncontrollably, or engages in both behaviors, they have adopted their particular vice to cope with life’s problems.

The behavior allows them to feel a sense of emotional satisfaction, whether that’s security, love, or control. Unfortunately, the feeling is only temporary because it’s not real. Once the gratification has worn off, the individual will experience greater self-loathing and reduced psychological security. When they’re feeling low again, they will binge eat or gamble without regard for their future, and the cycle begins again.

Once binge eaters and problem gamblers are able to recognize the real reason they are drawn to their particular activities, they can begin to address the problem with the guidance of a licensed professional.

You Can Overcome Your Disorder

Are you currently struggling with a gambling problem and an eating disorder? Help is available when you are ready! Call 1-800-GAMBLER any day of the week to speak with a gambling disorder expert. You can receive guidance on the next steps, information on Gambler’s Anonymous meetings, and resources on treatment centers. Get the help you need in a way that’s comfortable for you.


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