Binge eating disorder is when someone often eats large amounts of food in a short time. It's also called compulsive overeating. A person with binge eating disorder feels out of control about how much they eat. This disorder is not the same as bulimia. People with binge eating disorder don’t get rid of (purge) the excess food by vomiting, laxative abuse, or diuretic abuse.
Experts don’t fully know what causes binge eating disorder. Social pressures may play a role. Other causes may include personal stress and certain personality traits.
Genetic factors are also believed to play a role. Eating disorders tend to run in families. More women than men have binge eating disorder. This condition is more common among people who are very overweight. It may be triggered by feelings, such as anger, sadness, or boredom. Feeling deprived while on a strict diet may also cause some people to binge eat.
People with binge eating disorder often:
Eat large amounts of food at one time, often junk food, to reduce stress and relieve anxiety
Don't stop eating until they are uncomfortably full
Feel embarrassed and guilty about how much food they are eating
Have a history of weight gains and losses
Have more trouble losing weight and keeping it off than people with other serious weight problems
Talk with your healthcare provider if you think you may have binge eating disorder. Early treatment can often prevent future problems. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about your symptoms and may order certain tests. They may refer you to a psychiatrist or a mental health expert to help diagnose and treat binge eating disorder.
An evaluation by your healthcare provider or mental health expert may include:
Talking about your eating behaviors (such as when the eating behaviors happen and how long they last)
Talking about your symptoms (physical and psychiatric symptoms)
Talking about how your eating behaviors or symptoms affect your work or school performance, relationships, and activities
Personal and family history of emotional, behavioral, or developmental disorders
Complete health history
You may have tests to see if you have an underlying health condition. These tests may include:
Radiology studies to look for abnormalities, particularly in the brain structures
Speech and language assessments
Eating disorders can be treated successfully. But the answer isn't as simple as changing eating habits. This is because eating disorders are about much more than food. They are caused by emotional issues that must be addressed. Therapy is a key part of treating and managing eating disorders. Some people may also be prescribed medicines, such as antidepressants, to help overcome an eating disorder. Those with binge eating disorder may sometimes need appetite suppressants to help manage their condition.
There isn’t one treatment that works for all eating disorders. Treatment will depend on the results of physical and emotional assessments. It will be different for each person.
Binge eating may make it hard to live a normal life. You may miss work or school to binge eat. You also may feel depressed, guilty, or ashamed. As a result, you may try to hide your problem from others. But it’s hard to deal with binge eating on your own. That’s why it can help to talk with your healthcare provider. Working together, you can find ways to control your eating. Don't be discouraged if your first attempt to talk with a provider is not successful. Try other providers until you find a good fit.
Possible complications from binge eating disorder include:
Excess weight or obesity
High blood pressure
Some types of cancer
There is a higher risk for psychiatric illnesses, such as:
Depressive mood disorders
Binge eating disorder is when someone often eats large amounts of food in a short time.
The person feels out of control about how much they eat.
Binge eating may be triggered by feelings, such as anger, sadness, or boredom.
It can be hard to live a normal life with this disorder. People may miss work or school to binge eat. They may also feel depressed, guilty, or ashamed.
People with this disorder are at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions. They are also at greater risk for psychiatric illnesses.
Therapy is a key part of treatment. Medicine, such as appetite suppressants or antidepressants, may also be prescribed.
It may take visits to a number of providers before you find a professional you can talk to about your eating disorder. Don't give up.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new directions your provider gives you.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
Know how you can contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.