What Is Binge-eating Disorder?

Reviewed Nov 9, 2017

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Summary

  • People with binge-eating disorder eat more than a normal amount of food in a small amount of time.
  • Binge-eating disorder is the most common type of eating disorder.

Many people eat too much now and then, such as on holidays or special events. And many people eat more than their bodies need to keep a healthy weight. This is a main cause of overweight and obesity. But overeating in these ways and binge-eating disorder (BED) are not the same.

What is BED?

BED is a type of eating disorder. Eating disorders involve abnormal eating behaviors. People with BED eat more than a normal amount of food in a small amount of time, often in less than two hours. This behavior occurs at least once a week for at least three months. Stress, depressed mood, feeling badly about one’s weight or body, dieting, and even boredom can start a binge. People with BED feel compelled to keep eating, even if they feel full or want to stop. This unwanted and uncontrolled behavior is deeply troubling to people with BED.

People with BED also have some or all of these symptoms:

  • Eating faster than normal
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Eating a lot of food despite not feeling hungry
  • Eating alone to avoid being embarrassed by overeating
  • Feeling disgusted, unhappy, or guilty after binging

People with BED do not compensate for eating too much. So, a person with BED will not throw up, fast, or work out to make up for overeating.

Are people with BED overweight?

Most people with BED are overweight or obese, but it affects people of normal weight too. Importantly, most people who are overweight or obese do not have BED.

What causes BED?

Experts know very little about the cause of BED and how it happens. Like other health issues, BED is complex and has many added factors, such as:

  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Environment
  • Societal and cultural factors

Research also suggests that BED tends to run in families.

BED often starts in the teen or young adult years, but loss-of-control eating and binge eating can be seen in children. Experts think that these behaviors may be early signs of BED in some people.

Treatment

Treatment can help people with BED gain control of eating, develop healthy eating behaviors, and have a healthier outlook about their body and self-image. Counseling is a proven method that is widely used. It can address BED, from changing unwanted behaviors, to handling stress, to overcoming interpersonal problems. Medicine is sometimes used in a treatment plan, mostly in people with BED who also have depression or other mental health issues. Learning how to make healthy food choices and become physically active also plays a role in treatment.

Resources

Binge Eating Disorder Association

National Eating Disorders Association

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

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; "The Prevalence and Correlates of Eating Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication," by James Hudson et al. in Biological Psychology 2007;61:348-58.
Reviewed by Rose Marie Sime, MD, VP DABPN, Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • People with binge-eating disorder eat more than a normal amount of food in a small amount of time.
  • Binge-eating disorder is the most common type of eating disorder.

Many people eat too much now and then, such as on holidays or special events. And many people eat more than their bodies need to keep a healthy weight. This is a main cause of overweight and obesity. But overeating in these ways and binge-eating disorder (BED) are not the same.

What is BED?

BED is a type of eating disorder. Eating disorders involve abnormal eating behaviors. People with BED eat more than a normal amount of food in a small amount of time, often in less than two hours. This behavior occurs at least once a week for at least three months. Stress, depressed mood, feeling badly about one’s weight or body, dieting, and even boredom can start a binge. People with BED feel compelled to keep eating, even if they feel full or want to stop. This unwanted and uncontrolled behavior is deeply troubling to people with BED.

People with BED also have some or all of these symptoms:

  • Eating faster than normal
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Eating a lot of food despite not feeling hungry
  • Eating alone to avoid being embarrassed by overeating
  • Feeling disgusted, unhappy, or guilty after binging

People with BED do not compensate for eating too much. So, a person with BED will not throw up, fast, or work out to make up for overeating.

Are people with BED overweight?

Most people with BED are overweight or obese, but it affects people of normal weight too. Importantly, most people who are overweight or obese do not have BED.

What causes BED?

Experts know very little about the cause of BED and how it happens. Like other health issues, BED is complex and has many added factors, such as:

  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Environment
  • Societal and cultural factors

Research also suggests that BED tends to run in families.

BED often starts in the teen or young adult years, but loss-of-control eating and binge eating can be seen in children. Experts think that these behaviors may be early signs of BED in some people.

Treatment

Treatment can help people with BED gain control of eating, develop healthy eating behaviors, and have a healthier outlook about their body and self-image. Counseling is a proven method that is widely used. It can address BED, from changing unwanted behaviors, to handling stress, to overcoming interpersonal problems. Medicine is sometimes used in a treatment plan, mostly in people with BED who also have depression or other mental health issues. Learning how to make healthy food choices and become physically active also plays a role in treatment.

Resources

Binge Eating Disorder Association

National Eating Disorders Association

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

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; "The Prevalence and Correlates of Eating Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication," by James Hudson et al. in Biological Psychology 2007;61:348-58.
Reviewed by Rose Marie Sime, MD, VP DABPN, Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • People with binge-eating disorder eat more than a normal amount of food in a small amount of time.
  • Binge-eating disorder is the most common type of eating disorder.

Many people eat too much now and then, such as on holidays or special events. And many people eat more than their bodies need to keep a healthy weight. This is a main cause of overweight and obesity. But overeating in these ways and binge-eating disorder (BED) are not the same.

What is BED?

BED is a type of eating disorder. Eating disorders involve abnormal eating behaviors. People with BED eat more than a normal amount of food in a small amount of time, often in less than two hours. This behavior occurs at least once a week for at least three months. Stress, depressed mood, feeling badly about one’s weight or body, dieting, and even boredom can start a binge. People with BED feel compelled to keep eating, even if they feel full or want to stop. This unwanted and uncontrolled behavior is deeply troubling to people with BED.

People with BED also have some or all of these symptoms:

  • Eating faster than normal
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Eating a lot of food despite not feeling hungry
  • Eating alone to avoid being embarrassed by overeating
  • Feeling disgusted, unhappy, or guilty after binging

People with BED do not compensate for eating too much. So, a person with BED will not throw up, fast, or work out to make up for overeating.

Are people with BED overweight?

Most people with BED are overweight or obese, but it affects people of normal weight too. Importantly, most people who are overweight or obese do not have BED.

What causes BED?

Experts know very little about the cause of BED and how it happens. Like other health issues, BED is complex and has many added factors, such as:

  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Environment
  • Societal and cultural factors

Research also suggests that BED tends to run in families.

BED often starts in the teen or young adult years, but loss-of-control eating and binge eating can be seen in children. Experts think that these behaviors may be early signs of BED in some people.

Treatment

Treatment can help people with BED gain control of eating, develop healthy eating behaviors, and have a healthier outlook about their body and self-image. Counseling is a proven method that is widely used. It can address BED, from changing unwanted behaviors, to handling stress, to overcoming interpersonal problems. Medicine is sometimes used in a treatment plan, mostly in people with BED who also have depression or other mental health issues. Learning how to make healthy food choices and become physically active also plays a role in treatment.

Resources

Binge Eating Disorder Association

National Eating Disorders Association

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

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; "The Prevalence and Correlates of Eating Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication," by James Hudson et al. in Biological Psychology 2007;61:348-58.
Reviewed by Rose Marie Sime, MD, VP DABPN, Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

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