Binge eating is an eating disorder where a person feels compelled to overeat on a regular basis. Like people with bulimia, those with binge eating disorder experience frequent episodes of out-of-control eating. The difference is that binge eaters don't purge their food or exercise compulsively to rid themselves of the calories consumed. Bingeing usually takes place in private, as people with this disorder often struggle with feelings of guilt, disgust, and depression. These feelings highlight underlying psychological issues, such as low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. If you or someone you know is suffering from binge eating disorder, understanding more about it can help you cope.
This section contains information about what binge eating disorder is, its symptoms, and how it can be diagnosed. Because binge eating is related to self-image and is not just about food, recovery from binge eating disorder is possible only if the person suffering from it can understand the psychological issues causing their condition, and adopt healthy eating patterns. See Treatment for more information.
For those who suspect a friend or family member has binge eating disorder, it can be tough to know what to do. The Tips for Helping someone with binge eating disorder page can give you some guidance to help you support your loved one.
Many people will occasionally overeat, and a lot of people feel they frequently eat more than they should. This does not necessarily mean that a person has binge eating disorder. However, those with binge eating disorder will likely have numerous behavioural and emotional signs and symptoms, such as:
Episodes of binge eating also occur in the eating disorder bulimia nervosa. But unlike binge eating disorder, People with bulimia regularly purge, fast, or engage in strenuous exercise after an episode of binge eating.
Binge eating is an eating disorder where a person feels compelled to overeat on a regular basis. Like people with bulimia, those with binge eating disorder experience frequent episodes of out-of-control eating. The difference is that binge eaters don't purge their food or exercise compulsively to rid themselves of the calories consumed. Because of this, binge eaters are often overweight or obese.
Episodes of binge eating generally alternate with periods where the person severely cuts down on the amount of food they eat, which can make the problem worse. Binge eating usually takes place in private, as people with binge eating disorder often struggle with feelings of guilt, disgust, and depression. These feelings highlight underlying psychological issues, such as low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.
Research has shown that people with binge eating disorder report more mental health problems, such as stress, trouble sleeping, and suicidal thoughts than people without an eating disorder. Because those with binge eating disorder also have a greater risk of becoming overweight or obese, this raises the chance of other health complications such as type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Recovery from binge eating disorder is possible if the person suffering from it can understand the psychological issues causing their condition, adopt healthy eating patterns, and receive realistic advice about food.
The causes of binge eating disorder are not known. However family history, biological factors, long-term dieting and psychological issues increase your risk. Studies also suggest that people with binge eating disorder may have trouble handling some of their emotions. Many people who are binge eaters say that being angry, sad, bored, worried, or stressed can trigger bingeing behaviours.
Anyone can be affected by binge eating. Unlike anorexia and bulimia, which significantly affect more women than men, binge eating affects men and women almost equally. Estimates by the National Eating Disorders Association indicate that about 60% of people struggling with binge eating disorder are female, while 40% are male. The condition also tends to be more common in older adults than in young people.
In diagnosing binge eating disorder, your doctor will ask you about your eating habits and look for three or more of the following signs:
If you regularly eat in this way and experience distress over your binge episodes, visit your doctor. He or she will be able to diagnose the condition and refer you to a specialist, such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist. In some cases, you may also be referred to a dietitian. Binge eating disorder is a treatable condition and these professionals are qualified to help you correct any thoughts, feelings and behaviours that trigger a binge, as well as teach you healthier eating habits.
Your doctor may also want you to have tests, such as a physical exam or laboratory tests, to check for any health consequences of binge eating disorder.
Binge eating disorder is a treatable condition. The goals for treatment are to reduce eating binges, to improve the patient’s emotional wellbeing and, when necessary, to help them to attain and maintain a healthy weight. Because binge eating is strongly linked with negative emotions such as shame, poor self-image and self-disgust, treatment will also needs to address these and other psychological issues.
The four main types of treatment for binge-eating disorder are:
It can be tough to know what to do if you suspect a friend or family member has binge eating disorder. The best thing you can do is to talk to the person about your concerns, as eating disorders can have serious physical and emotional consequences and should never be ignored. While your loved one may get defensive and deny bingeing, there’s a chance that he or she will welcome the opportunity to open up about the struggle. Here are some suggestions for supporting your loved one: