The defining characteristic of binge eating disorder is recurrent episodes of binge eating that occur, on average, at least once per month (for at least 3 months). Binge eating is eating an abnormally more amount of food than a person would normally eat in a similar period of time. The specific type of food doesn’t matter — what matters is the sheer amount of food consumed in one sitting.
People with binge-eating disorder (BED) often feel ashamed and embarrassed by their eating issues, and may attempt to conceal their symptoms. Binge eating usually occurs in secrecy, or at least as inconspicuously as possible. After a binge eating episode, people with this disorder often feel depressed and ashamed of themselves.
The prevalence of binge eating disorder is 1.6 percent for females and 0.8 percent for males.
Symptoms of Binge-Eating Disorder
1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:
- Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2 hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
- A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).
2. The binge-eating episodes are associated with 3 or more of the following:
- Eating much more rapidly than normal.
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.
- Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry.
- Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating.
- Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterward.
3. Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.
4. The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for 3 months.
5. The binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behavior, as in bulimia, and does not occur exclusively during the course of bulimia or anorexia.
In partial remission: After full criteria for binge-eating disorder were previously met, binge eating occurs at an average frequency of less than one episode per week for a sustained period of time.
In full remission: After full criteria for binge-eating disorder were previously met, none of the criteria have been met for a sustained period of time.
Severity is also noted in the diagnosis, from mild to extreme:
- Mild: 1-3 binge-eating episodes per week
- Moderate: 4-7 episodes
- Severe: 8-13 episodes
- Extreme: 14 or more episodes
For further reading: Living with Binge Eating Disorder
This diagnosis is new to the DSM-5. Code: 307.51 (F50.8)
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.