Binge Eating Disorder

What is binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder is a condition in which you regularly eat large amounts of food within a couple of hours or less (a binge). You feel that you can’t control the binges, and you feel unhappy about them afterward.

Unlike bulimia, if you have binge eating disorder, you don’t vomit or try other ways to get rid of calories after you binge. However, you might try to restrict your food intake between binges. Binge eating disorder is sometimes called compulsive overeating.

Over time, many people who have binge eating disorder gain weight and have problems related to being obese. However, some people who binge have a normal weight. People with binge eating disorder often also have depression, anxiety, or other emotional problems.

Having an eating disorder is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw. And it is not something you can overcome with just willpower. Many people struggle with these complex, long-term conditions and need treatment to get better. If you have binge eating disorder or another eating disorder, treatment can prevent health problems, help you feel better about yourself, and improve the quality of your life.

What causes binge eating disorder?

Experts are not sure what causes binge eating disorder. It might run in families (genetic link). Experts think cultural attitudes about body shape and weight also play a role in eating disorders. Anxiety, depression, or stress can trigger binging in some people.

What are the symptoms?

From time to time, most of us feel like we have eaten more than we should. However, eating too much is only one symptom of binge eating disorder. If you have the condition, you eat when you are not hungry or for emotional reasons, such as being sad, angry, lonely, or bored. During a binge, you might feel that you can’t stop eating, eat very quickly, or eat so much that you feel painfully full. After binging, you might feel upset, guilty, or depressed. You might often eat alone because you are embarrassed about how much you eat.

How is binge eating disorder diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose binge eating disorder by doing a physical exam and asking questions about your medical history and eating habits. Your doctor also might ask you questions about your mental health and your attitudes toward food and the shape of your body.

How is it treated?

Treatment for binge eating disorder includes counseling, medicines such as antidepressants, or a combination of the two. You might need treatment over a long period of time to fully recover. You also might need treatment for other conditions that often occur with binge eating disorder. This can include depression, obesity, or problems related to being overweight.

Who gets binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder usually starts in the late teen to young adult years. It is more common in women than men. It affects as many as 2% of females in the United States. It is estimated that one-fourth of people who are obese have binge eating disorder.

Binge eating disorder can be triggered by dieting, depression, anxiety, boredom, or even stress, which is then relieved with binge eating. Your risk of developing this condition increases if:

Your parents are overweight.

You are a perfectionist. This means that you feel like you have to do everything exactly right all the time.

You have a poor body image. This means that you do not like the way your body looks.

You live in a culture that values being thin.