What is binge eating disorder?

Eating a large amount of food in a short amount of time with no control over how much you are eating, often to the point of discomfort, and usually without the use of unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating.

How do I know if I have binge eating disorder?

BED is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating.

An episode of binge eating is characterized by eating large quantity of food within a finite period of time — the amount of food is clearly larger than what most people would eat in similar situations. Other characteristics include an inability to control eating, including the quantity of food intake.

Binge eating episodes are associated with three or more of the following situations: Eating large quantities of food even when not physically hungry, eating more rapidly than normal, feeling uncomfortably full, feeling guilty or depressed after binging, and eating by one’s self due to feelings of embarrassment at the quantity of food being consumed. Binge eating disorder also is indicated by binge eating regularly — at least once a week for 3 months.

How is binge eating disorder different from bulimia nervosa?

Unlike someone struggling with binge eating disorder, people who have bulimia nervosa try to prevent weight gain after binge eating by vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, fasting, or exercising too much.

Who is more likely to develop binge eating disorder?

Approximately 60% of those with binge eating disorder are women. Binge eating disorder can occur in people of average body weight but is more common in people with obesity, particularly severe obesity. However, it is important to note that most people with obesity do not have binge eating disorder. BED often begins in late teens to early 20s.

Childhood experiences that are painful, including family problems and negative comments about one’s shape, weight, or eating also are associated with developing binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder also runs in families, and there may be a genetic component.

Can you have other health problems, when you have binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder may lead to weight gain and health problems related to obesity. Overweight and obesity are associated with many health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. Some people with binge eating disorder also have problems with their digestive system, or joint and muscle pain.

People with binge eating disorder may also have mental health problems such as depression or anxiety.

How do you treat binge eating disorder?

Treatment goals for binge-eating disorder include reducing the number of eating binges, and also to lose weight, if this is an issue. Binge eating is correlated with poor self-image and shame; therefore, treatment also may address these and other psychological issues. Some treatment options include psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (focuses on coping skills and behavior control), interpersonal psychotherapy (focuses on relationships), and dialectical behavioral therapy (focuses on behavioral skills to cope with stress, regulate emotions and improve interpersonal skills). Other forms of treatment include medications and behavioral weight loss programs.

Can binge eating disorder be prevented?

Starting treatment as soon as symptoms emerge is a very helpful start. Not every instance of binge eating disorder can be prevented, but an awareness of the early stages of this eating disorder can contribute to successful treatment. Also, encouraging healthy behaviors and eating habits, as well as realistic attitudes about food and body image may help to prevent the development or worsening of eating disorders.