The Leading Expert in Treatment for Alcohol and Substance Abuse
and Founder of The Hills Treatment Center
Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder involves a person eating a large amount of food in a short period of time. A person with this disorder practices binging regularly for at least several months. During a binge, control is lost and afterwards depression or shame set in.

Binge eating disorder differs from bulimia in that bulimia involves some type of purging following an episode of overeating. Those with binge eating disorder do not purge their food, but they might limit their intake during periods between binges. This disorder is also commonly known as compulsive overeating.

Some people who develop this disorder are of a normal weight. However, over time there is a high probability of weight gain for those with binge eating disorder. Many with this disorder have some emotional difficulty they are self-medicating such as depression, anxiety, or anger problems. The exact cause of binge eating disorder is unknown. It does seem to have a genetic link and societal expectations may play a role. Underlying mental disorders such as depression or anxiety can also be factors for the development of binge eating.

Just eating a lot every now and then does not mean that one has binge eating disorder.

Some symptoms of this disorder may include:

  • Consuming way too much food in a short period of time regularly
  • Eating to self-medicate uncomfortable feeling
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Feeling unable to cease eating
  • Eating at a faster rate during binges
  • Eating until discomfort or pain
  • Unhappiness, anger, or shame following a binge
  • Isolating during binges for fear of judgment

Binge eating disorder often develops in the late teens or as a young adult. It affects more women than men. Around 3% of females in the United States have binge eating disorder and it is estimated that 25% of the obese have the disorder.

Some possible root causes for binge eating disorder are dieting, depression, or anxiety. It can even be brought upon by stress or boredom which is quelled by excessive eating. The risk for binge eating disorder is higher in those who are overweight or have overweight parents, perfectionists, low self -esteem or unhealthy self-image. Living in a society which highly values being thin also heightens the risk for binge eating disorder.

Treatment for this disorder often includes the combination of therapy and medications. Treatment may need to be implemented on a long term basis because of high risk of relapse when stressful situations arise. Treatment for the underlying causes of the disorder is imperative for long term recovery.

Binge eaters may also find benefit from Overeaters Anonymous, which is a 12 step program focused on the issues with overconsumption of food.


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