For Teens: Understanding Binge-eating Disorder

Reviewed Nov 9, 2017

Close

E-mail Article

Complete form to e-mail article…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

Separate multiple recipients with a comma

Close

Sign-Up For Newsletters

Complete this form to sign-up for newsletters…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

 

Summary

  • Teens often feel powerless to control binge eating, are unhappy with their body shape and weight, and have low self-esteem.
  • Treatment can help teens with binge-eating disorder stop or reduce binge eating and learn to eat normally.

At school, Kyle looks around at his classmates in envy. “I know my life would be better if I were good at sports, or popular, or smarter.” Between classes, Kyle grabs a handful of candy bars from his locker and retreats to a bathroom stall so he can devour the candy in private. “It’s like I’m on autopilot. I just can’t help myself,” says Kyle. “When I eat, I forget about my grades and fitting in. I know this isn’t good for me and I want to stop, but I don’t know how.”

Kyle’s story is not as unusual as you might think. Binge-eating disorder (BED) is the most common type of eating disorder. Boys are nearly as likely to get it as girls. The good news is that BED is treatable with help. Learn what BED looks like in teens and what you can do if you think you might have it.

What does BED look like in teens?

BED affects all types of teens—boys, girls, teens of all races, and teens of all backgrounds. Teens with BED are likely to:

  • Eat a lot of food quickly and in a short amount of time. This is a binge. Unlike teens with bulimia nervosa, another eating disorder, teens with BED do not throw up or compensate for overeating in other ways. But some research suggests that binge eating in early youth can predict bulimia nervosa in older youth.
  • Eat when not hungry. Kyle eats when he feels anxious about school and fitting in. Other kids might eat because they are bored, angry, or sad. Some turn to food as a distraction from family conflict. Many teens don’t know why they eat.
  • Eat in secret. Kyle eats in the school bathroom. Some teens eat in their closets or bedrooms, sneak food from the kitchen when no one is watching, and hide food where others won’t find it, such as their cars.
  • Feel powerless to stop eating. “Autopilot” is how Kyle described his out-of-control eating. Many people with BED will eat until they are uncomfortably full.
  • Feel embarrassed, disgusted, or ashamed of their eating behavior. These feelings and others cause many teens to withdraw from family and friends.
  • Be unhappy with their body weight and shape. Some—but not all—teens with BED are overweight. Kyle has always had a husky build, but he was never overweight until recently. Months of binge eating have caused his weight to skyrocket to an unhealthy level.
  • Have low self-esteem. Many teens with BED don’t like themselves that much. Like Kyle, they may mistakenly think their lives would be better if they were funny, attractive, athletic, or well-liked.

How can treatment help teens with BED get better?

Counseling can help teens with BED stop binge eating and learn how to eat normally. It also helps teens improve self-esteem and accept their bodies. In counseling, you may learn how to:

  • Identify and change negative thoughts and problem thinking that lead to binge eating
  • Identify and cope with stressors in new and healthy ways
  • Manage impulses through self-control
  • Eat healthily and normally
  • Focus on your positive qualities
  • Avoid people and situations that make you feel badly about yourself
  • Try new things and make new friends

What can you do if you think you have BED?

It can be hard to tell a parent or trusted adult that you are worried about your eating. But the longer your eating problem goes undiagnosed and untreated, the harder it will likely be for you to overcome it in the future. Continuing to binge eat puts you at risk of overweight and obesity, as well as related conditions like diabetes and depression.

Don’t wait to get help. The sooner you reach out for help, the sooner you will begin to feel better. You can do it.

Resources

Binge Eating Disorder Association
www.bedaonline.com

National Eating Disorders Association
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
www.anad.org

By Christine Martin
Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition. American Psychological Association, 2013; Binge-Eating Disorder: Clinical Foundations and Treatment, by James E. Mitchell, MD, et al. The Guilford Press, 2007; Allen K et al. "DSM-IV-TR and DSM-5 eating disorders in adolescents ..." J Abnormal Psych. 2013 (122); Binge-Eating Disorder: Clinical Foundations and Treatment, by James Mitchell et al, 2008; Wildermuth SA et al. "Maladaptive eating patterns in children." J Pediatr Health Care. 2013 (27).
Reviewed by Rose Marie Sime, MD, VP DABPN, Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Teens often feel powerless to control binge eating, are unhappy with their body shape and weight, and have low self-esteem.
  • Treatment can help teens with binge-eating disorder stop or reduce binge eating and learn to eat normally.

At school, Kyle looks around at his classmates in envy. “I know my life would be better if I were good at sports, or popular, or smarter.” Between classes, Kyle grabs a handful of candy bars from his locker and retreats to a bathroom stall so he can devour the candy in private. “It’s like I’m on autopilot. I just can’t help myself,” says Kyle. “When I eat, I forget about my grades and fitting in. I know this isn’t good for me and I want to stop, but I don’t know how.”

Kyle’s story is not as unusual as you might think. Binge-eating disorder (BED) is the most common type of eating disorder. Boys are nearly as likely to get it as girls. The good news is that BED is treatable with help. Learn what BED looks like in teens and what you can do if you think you might have it.

What does BED look like in teens?

BED affects all types of teens—boys, girls, teens of all races, and teens of all backgrounds. Teens with BED are likely to:

  • Eat a lot of food quickly and in a short amount of time. This is a binge. Unlike teens with bulimia nervosa, another eating disorder, teens with BED do not throw up or compensate for overeating in other ways. But some research suggests that binge eating in early youth can predict bulimia nervosa in older youth.
  • Eat when not hungry. Kyle eats when he feels anxious about school and fitting in. Other kids might eat because they are bored, angry, or sad. Some turn to food as a distraction from family conflict. Many teens don’t know why they eat.
  • Eat in secret. Kyle eats in the school bathroom. Some teens eat in their closets or bedrooms, sneak food from the kitchen when no one is watching, and hide food where others won’t find it, such as their cars.
  • Feel powerless to stop eating. “Autopilot” is how Kyle described his out-of-control eating. Many people with BED will eat until they are uncomfortably full.
  • Feel embarrassed, disgusted, or ashamed of their eating behavior. These feelings and others cause many teens to withdraw from family and friends.
  • Be unhappy with their body weight and shape. Some—but not all—teens with BED are overweight. Kyle has always had a husky build, but he was never overweight until recently. Months of binge eating have caused his weight to skyrocket to an unhealthy level.
  • Have low self-esteem. Many teens with BED don’t like themselves that much. Like Kyle, they may mistakenly think their lives would be better if they were funny, attractive, athletic, or well-liked.

How can treatment help teens with BED get better?

Counseling can help teens with BED stop binge eating and learn how to eat normally. It also helps teens improve self-esteem and accept their bodies. In counseling, you may learn how to:

  • Identify and change negative thoughts and problem thinking that lead to binge eating
  • Identify and cope with stressors in new and healthy ways
  • Manage impulses through self-control
  • Eat healthily and normally
  • Focus on your positive qualities
  • Avoid people and situations that make you feel badly about yourself
  • Try new things and make new friends

What can you do if you think you have BED?

It can be hard to tell a parent or trusted adult that you are worried about your eating. But the longer your eating problem goes undiagnosed and untreated, the harder it will likely be for you to overcome it in the future. Continuing to binge eat puts you at risk of overweight and obesity, as well as related conditions like diabetes and depression.

Don’t wait to get help. The sooner you reach out for help, the sooner you will begin to feel better. You can do it.

Resources

Binge Eating Disorder Association
www.bedaonline.com

National Eating Disorders Association
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
www.anad.org

By Christine Martin
Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition. American Psychological Association, 2013; Binge-Eating Disorder: Clinical Foundations and Treatment, by James E. Mitchell, MD, et al. The Guilford Press, 2007; Allen K et al. "DSM-IV-TR and DSM-5 eating disorders in adolescents ..." J Abnormal Psych. 2013 (122); Binge-Eating Disorder: Clinical Foundations and Treatment, by James Mitchell et al, 2008; Wildermuth SA et al. "Maladaptive eating patterns in children." J Pediatr Health Care. 2013 (27).
Reviewed by Rose Marie Sime, MD, VP DABPN, Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Teens often feel powerless to control binge eating, are unhappy with their body shape and weight, and have low self-esteem.
  • Treatment can help teens with binge-eating disorder stop or reduce binge eating and learn to eat normally.

At school, Kyle looks around at his classmates in envy. “I know my life would be better if I were good at sports, or popular, or smarter.” Between classes, Kyle grabs a handful of candy bars from his locker and retreats to a bathroom stall so he can devour the candy in private. “It’s like I’m on autopilot. I just can’t help myself,” says Kyle. “When I eat, I forget about my grades and fitting in. I know this isn’t good for me and I want to stop, but I don’t know how.”

Kyle’s story is not as unusual as you might think. Binge-eating disorder (BED) is the most common type of eating disorder. Boys are nearly as likely to get it as girls. The good news is that BED is treatable with help. Learn what BED looks like in teens and what you can do if you think you might have it.

What does BED look like in teens?

BED affects all types of teens—boys, girls, teens of all races, and teens of all backgrounds. Teens with BED are likely to:

  • Eat a lot of food quickly and in a short amount of time. This is a binge. Unlike teens with bulimia nervosa, another eating disorder, teens with BED do not throw up or compensate for overeating in other ways. But some research suggests that binge eating in early youth can predict bulimia nervosa in older youth.
  • Eat when not hungry. Kyle eats when he feels anxious about school and fitting in. Other kids might eat because they are bored, angry, or sad. Some turn to food as a distraction from family conflict. Many teens don’t know why they eat.
  • Eat in secret. Kyle eats in the school bathroom. Some teens eat in their closets or bedrooms, sneak food from the kitchen when no one is watching, and hide food where others won’t find it, such as their cars.
  • Feel powerless to stop eating. “Autopilot” is how Kyle described his out-of-control eating. Many people with BED will eat until they are uncomfortably full.
  • Feel embarrassed, disgusted, or ashamed of their eating behavior. These feelings and others cause many teens to withdraw from family and friends.
  • Be unhappy with their body weight and shape. Some—but not all—teens with BED are overweight. Kyle has always had a husky build, but he was never overweight until recently. Months of binge eating have caused his weight to skyrocket to an unhealthy level.
  • Have low self-esteem. Many teens with BED don’t like themselves that much. Like Kyle, they may mistakenly think their lives would be better if they were funny, attractive, athletic, or well-liked.

How can treatment help teens with BED get better?

Counseling can help teens with BED stop binge eating and learn how to eat normally. It also helps teens improve self-esteem and accept their bodies. In counseling, you may learn how to:

  • Identify and change negative thoughts and problem thinking that lead to binge eating
  • Identify and cope with stressors in new and healthy ways
  • Manage impulses through self-control
  • Eat healthily and normally
  • Focus on your positive qualities
  • Avoid people and situations that make you feel badly about yourself
  • Try new things and make new friends

What can you do if you think you have BED?

It can be hard to tell a parent or trusted adult that you are worried about your eating. But the longer your eating problem goes undiagnosed and untreated, the harder it will likely be for you to overcome it in the future. Continuing to binge eat puts you at risk of overweight and obesity, as well as related conditions like diabetes and depression.

Don’t wait to get help. The sooner you reach out for help, the sooner you will begin to feel better. You can do it.

Resources

Binge Eating Disorder Association
www.bedaonline.com

National Eating Disorders Association
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
www.anad.org

By Christine Martin
Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition. American Psychological Association, 2013; Binge-Eating Disorder: Clinical Foundations and Treatment, by James E. Mitchell, MD, et al. The Guilford Press, 2007; Allen K et al. "DSM-IV-TR and DSM-5 eating disorders in adolescents ..." J Abnormal Psych. 2013 (122); Binge-Eating Disorder: Clinical Foundations and Treatment, by James Mitchell et al, 2008; Wildermuth SA et al. "Maladaptive eating patterns in children." J Pediatr Health Care. 2013 (27).
Reviewed by Rose Marie Sime, MD, VP DABPN, Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

Close

  • Useful Tools

    Select a tool below

© 2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.