An Introduction to Binge Eating

By Toby Goldsmith, M.D.
25 Nov 2001

"Bet you can't eat just one."

Many will recall this popular television commercial, where the announcer tempts an unsuspecting muncher with a single potato chip. He grabs the bag, examines a single chip and confidently eats it. Within moments his eyes are fixed on the bag of chips that seem to be calling his name. He looks away but the urge is too strong. Overwhelmed by his craving, he lunges for the bag, and devours the entire contents. The announcer smugly retorts. "Told you. You can't eat just one."

For the millions of Americans with binge eating disorder this scenario is all too real. Binge eating disorder is perhaps the most common, yet least studied, of the eating disorders.

There are striking similarities to substance abuse. Both include obsessive thoughts, preoccupation and strong compulsion to consume, followed by feelings of guilt and emotional angst.

There is hope, however. New and exciting research is providing a clearer picture of the causes of binge eating disorder and obesity. Neuroscientists have recently identified a number of brain messengers that are involved in the feelings of hunger, feeding and satiation. These are the targets for the development of new and better treatments for binge eating and other eating disorders.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Mar 2015
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