Binge eating disorder (BED) is a severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterward; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating.
• Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:
‣ Eating, in a discrete period (e.g., within any 2 hours), an amount of food that is larger than what most people would eat in a similar period 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).
The binge-eating episodes are associated with three (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.
• Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.
• The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for 3 months.
• Binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors (e.g., purging) as in bulimia nervosa and does not occur exclusively during bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa
The exact cause of binge eating is unknown. Things that may lead to this disorder include:
• Genes, such as having close relatives who also have an eating disorder
• Changes in brain chemicals
• Depression or other emotions, such as feeling upset or stressed
• Unhealthy dieting, such as not eating enough nutritious food or skipping meals
In the United States, binge eating is the most common eating disorder. More women than men have it. Women are affected as young adults while men are affected in middle age.
A person with binge eating disorder:
• Eats large amounts of food in a short period, for example, every 2 hours.
• Is not able to control overeating, for example, is unable to stop eating or control the amount of food.
• Eats food very fast each time.
• Keeps eating even when full (gorging) or until uncomfortably full.
• Eats even though not hungry.
• Eats alone (in secret).
• Feels guilty, disgusted, ashamed, or depressed after eating so much
About two-thirds of people who have binge eating disorders are obese.
Binge eating may occur on its own or with another eating disorder, such as bulimia. People with bulimia eat large amounts of high-calorie foods, often in secret. After this binge eating, they often force themselves to vomit or take laxatives or exercise vigorously.
Most people get better from binge eating disorder with treatment and support.
A guided self-help program is the first step in treating binge eating disorders. This often involves working through a self-help book combined with sessions with a healthcare professional, such as a therapist.
If you’re offered Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), it will usually be in group sessions with other people, but it may also be offered as one-to-one individual sessions with a therapist.
Medication in combination with therapy or self-help treatment to help you manage other conditions, such as:
•anxiety or depression
•obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your eating patterns and symptoms.
Blood tests may be done.