“This isn’t just a battle of will power and making positive choices, BED may be a biologically based illness for most people.”
Trigger Warning: The content in this post maybe triggering for some readers.
Please find below a real life story from one of our readers. We share this to create an awareness of how deadly Eating Disorders can be. Please read this with open mind. We wish this person a speedy recovery and very healthy life filled with love blessings and light.
When a Binge Becomes Deadly
I only share my story and the relevant pictures to demonstrate how real and raw my story is, and to inform you when a binge becomes deadly.
I am 15 years old and since March 2020, I’ve been home full time. When in school, I’m a nobody. The ‘cool crowd in school will label me as a ‘ nerd’, ‘geek’, ‘loser’ and at times ‘pathetic’. I don’t fit in, I’m a misfit. The only sport I am good at is badminton – there’s such a relief and a release of anger when I connect my racket to a shuttle. When I’m very, very angry I whack the air with my racket.
The teachers in my school pay no attention to me. I never miss a day of school and I work numerous extra hours on my studies too. I’m perhaps too obedient and love to disappear in the background. My work is good and in fact, I am among the top 5 achievers in my year.
I stopped eating when I was 12 because it made me small and by becoming small, I was able to disappear in the background which is exactly what I wanted.
When I was 13, I was put on a eating plan to increase my weight.
When I turned 14, the bullying in my school increased and the situation in my house deteriorated.
I discovered the joy of night time eating and further spent weekends eating. When I felt I was gaining weight, I would stop and reduce my eating. When I felt lonely, I would consume food like there was no tomorrow.
In lock down, all of a sudden, 9 of us were confined in one house. It’s a large house but to see each other’s face 24/7 gets on your nerves.
People are now starting to notice that food would be finished in days. The food cupboard was becoming bare and bare so my mother started hiding all the junk food. I would find it and eat it, even going as far as to hiding the food in my wardrobe.
I, in-fact, enjoyed lock down. No more taking those long walks to school, no more exhausting yourself by trying to fit in, no more wandering thoughts of whether you will be bullied in PE, and no more judgement of your inability to score the goal and everything else.
I started to prepare for my next academic year and started putting in extra hours. Any extra time was devoted to eating. I started to cook mac n cheese and would cook two pizzas daily.
Ramadan came and I breathed a sigh of relief. Everything became extra quiet and consequently my binging took a back seat.
After Ramadan, I was still in control. I felt lighter and not very sluggish.
Then followed a fatal week where I felt exhausted after overeating (I binged for two straight days). In that fatal week, lock down eased and people went crazy.
We had a birthday party and I was in the process of giving my body a break from food when my mother, sister and grandmother went crazy with food. I started off in control but I just felt hungry so I started to eat. No one noticed how much I was eating. I was simply smuggling food into my room and I demolished one dish after the other.
1am in the morning and I was still eating.
Exhausted and I knew this binge was the master of all binges. I lay down on the couch and a sharp pain ripped through my body. I lay there in a cold sweat with stars dancing in front of my eyes. My body was cold and I felt sick.
3am in the morning and I felt my stomach which was the size of a huge football. There was swelling.
I think I passed out in pain. I remember going in and out of a painful dark cloud. Every single tiny movement hurt.
By 7am my mother called the ambulance with no success. They said it was indigestion, give him xyz.
By 9am I thought I was dying. My mother made another attempt with the services and failed.
It was a blessing when I violently got sick at 10 am and I vomited for full 20 minutes. I lay there on the cold floor covered in a mess and in severe pain. I was exhausted and lifeless.
The ambulance did arrive and they said it was acute massive gastric dilatation. The vomiting eased but it left me mentally and physically exhausted. I was dehydrated and had to take the next 24 hours with ease. The evidence of my binge was on the floor.
It has been two weeks now since that incident happened. I have an acute fear of overeating now.
I now have occasional binges, I am not sure if I have binge eating disorder or an eating disorder. I did take the test and the answer was no – I felt relief wash over me but I feel tortured by my behaviour. I haven’t binged from that time on, but perhaps there are other issues that I need to deal with. Or maybe I do have an eating disorder….
My family now joke about my overeating but I know its not a laughing matter.
Please take a minute to read the literature below and get help.
Acute Massive Gastric Dilatation From Binge Eating
Acute Massive Gastric Dilatation Defined
To understand acute massive gastric dilatation, it may be helpful to define key terms related to the condition:
- Gastric dilatation means enlargement or ballooning of the stomach
- Ischemia means lack of blood flow
- Necrosis means “death of,” as in the death of cells
- Perforation means “tear,” generally in body tissues
Sometimes, the stomach may become so large that it occupies an area of the abdomen from the diaphragm to the pelvis and from the left side of the body to the right side of the body.
Acute massive gastric dilatation occurs when there is extreme distention or enlargement of the stomach.
While the condition is rare, it is encountered in several different scenarios. It can be a postoperative complication after abdominal surgery and it is sometimes seen in patients with disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, psychogenic polyphagia (extreme desire to eat), or trauma.
The condition is dangerous because it can cause ischemia, necrosis, and perforation of the stomach. In most cases of acute massive gastric dilatation, surgery has been necessary to prevent or to treat the complications. Early diagnosis with prompt gastric decompression may avoid unnecessary surgery.2
Though there is limited literature available, the case examples below illustrate the unexpected severity of acute massive gastric dilatation. In these examples, an episode of binge eating went wrong and triggered an urgent need for medical attention.
A published case history provides details of a person with a history of anorexia nervosa.3 Study authors describe a 26-year-old female who came to the emergency department of Massachusetts General Hospital with symptoms that included abdominal pain and nausea. She had been unable to vomit for two hours. Her weight was in the low-normal BMI range and she was described as thin.
At first, she reported no significant abnormal eating preceding the onset of her pain. But she eventually disclosed a past history of anorexia nervosa, including bingeing and purging, which had occurred in her teens. She said she had gone four years without bingeing but then went on a one-hour binge preceding this presentation brought on by alcohol intoxication and stress.
Medical intervention revealed that her gastric content included approximately two gallons of partially digested food. She was suffering from acute gastric dilatation with some necrosis — which can be fatal if not accurately and quickly diagnosed and treated.
Stomach contents were surgically removed. The woman remained in the hospital for five days and had to maintain a liquid diet even after she was discharged. Eventually, she resumed a typical diet and has since reported no problems.
However, if she had not come to the ER on the night of her binge eating episode, her outcome may have been dire. Study authors noted in their report that early surgical intervention is critical in preventing fatal complications.3
Bingeing and Excessive Exercise
Another case report describes a 28-year-old female who came to the emergency room with sudden abdominal discomfort and pain. The cause of symptoms was not reported at the time of admission. Her weight was in the normal to low-normal BMI range.
The woman was suffering from a massive dilatation of her stomach. She was admitted to the hospital and placed in intensive care. Medical evaluation revealed large amounts of undigested food that needed to be surgically removed.
The patient eventually disclosed a history of an eating disorder since childhood. Binge episodes were often followed by compensatory behaviors including food restriction and excessive exercise. At the time of hospital admission, she had been experiencing daily binges (with purging) triggered by work stress.
The woman was discharged 13 days after she first arrived at the hospital. She continued with psychiatric treatment that was initiated in the hospital. Authors of the report note that under similar conditions some patients do not recover and unfortunately pass away. They confirm the severity of this condition as well as the importance of adequate diagnosis and immediate surgical intervention.4
No Eating Disorder
In 2016, medical experts published a report of a 17-year-old male with no history of an eating disorder.5 The young man came to the hospital with pain and distension in the abdomen area and a period of retching without vomiting. He had reportedly fasted about 24-hours for religious purposes. Then, he had a binge-like dinner on the night before he ended up in emergency medical treatment the following night.
He was described as a “healthy boy” other than the abdominal issues. But he was suffering from acute gastric dilatation with ischemia and necrosis of the stomach wall. Medical intervention was required to remove about five liters of free fluid and undigested food in the abdominal cavity.
This episode could have lead to death if the patient had not received a timely medical intervention. The case study authors note that the condition can occur even in those with no diagnosis of an eating disorder.5
These cases are just a few that have been reported in the medical literature. But they are a few of the many reasons why binge-eating is dangerous—even when just a single episode is involved. They are also important reminders that medical intervention is key for proper management, and in some cases, for survival.
Causes and Risk Factors
More research is needed to clarify the risks and causes of acute gastric dilatation. A person of any weight may be susceptible to acute massive gastric dilatation. Though there are some factors that may increase your risk of experiencing the condition.
As indicated, binge eating and overeating without control puts you at risk. A higher chance of occurrence has been reported for those who currently have or have a history of an eating disorder versus those who don’t have that history. People who binge should be cautious of fasting and binge eating patterns accompanied by abdominal pain.
Warning Signs of Acute Massive Gastric Dilatation
Key symptoms to watch for include:
- An inability to vomit
- Bloating/distension in the abdomen area
- Sudden onset of abdominal pain
If you notice any of these symptoms, immediate medical attention and treatment can be critical. If massive gastric dilatation is suspected, surgery may be required to avoid more severe complications including necrosis, perforation, shock, and death.