About one-third of all Americans are overweight, and not all of them are binge eaters. Most of us find ourselves eating too much at one time or another. But what’s the difference between normal, occasional overeating and binge eating disorder?

At Thanksgiving, or other special occasions, it is very common for us to consume 1,000 or more calories at a sitting, and often to continue eating even after we feel full. Often we feel we have made a bit of a pig of ourselves. But that does not mean that every American has binge eating disorder.

In fact, most overeating is normal and not a cause of concern for most people. It usually happens around specific events, occasions, parties, gatherings, or holidays. As long as it is something that only happens occasionally, most people are fine with a little overeating. It’s when the overeating becomes more commonplace and starts to replace normal eating behaviors that it becomes a greater concern.

What separates overeating from binge eating disorder is:

  • The binge eating episodes occur regularly, at least twice a week for six months.
  • The binge eater finds the episodes very upsetting. If there is no emotional upheaval over the meal, it is not a binge eating disorder.
  • The binge eater does not like to eat in public. To him, eating is a private behavior. To most other people, eating and mealtime is a time to be shared and enjoyed with friends and family.
  • The binge eater does not feel normal physiological cues like hunger and being full. He eats more from emotional cues, such as anger and sadness.

Signs and Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

Are any of these true for you?

  • Some days even though I wanted to stop eating, I just could not help myself.
  • Some days I surprise myself with how much food I can eat in just a very short span of time.
  • I feel so horrible and guilty after I realize how much food I have consumed.
  • It seems that every night I go to bed thinking, “Tomorrow I am going to begin my diet.”

If you find yourself saying “Yes” to most of these symptoms, it may be a sign that you could have binge eating disorder. Only a trained mental health professional can make an accurate diagnosis of binge eating disorder.

However, if you’re concerned about the possibility of binge eating in your life, please take a minute to take our scientific, free binge eating quiz, which is a screening measure to help a person see if binge eating is a problem in a person’s life.