Binge-eating disorder is a problem that involves repeated episodes of binge-eating. Binge-eating refers to eating a larger-than-normal amount of food in a short period of time, usually within two hours.
People with this condition may eat even when they are not hungry, and they do not stop eating even when they feel full. People with binge-eating disorder feel unable to control their eating. Although they feel bad about overeating, they usually do not try to undo the bingeing by using laxatives or making themselves vomit. They do not starve themselves or exercise too much.
Binge-eating disorder usually starts in the teenage years or early 20s. It often gets worse with stress.
What are the causes?
The cause of this condition is not known.
What increases the risk?
The following factors may make you more likely to develop this condition:
- Being a teenager or in your early 20s.
- Being female. Binge-eating disorder can affect males, but it is more common in females.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Having a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety.
- Having a substance use disorder, such as alcohol use disorder.
- Having a history of unhealthy dieting, such as meal skipping, yo-yo dieting, food restricting, or avoiding certain kinds of foods.
What are the signs or symptoms?
Symptoms of this condition include:
- Eating much more quickly than normal.
- Eating to the point of feeling physically uncomfortable.
- Eating large amounts of food when you are not hungry.
- Eating alone because you are embarrassed about how much you are eating.
- Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating.
How is this diagnosed?
This condition is diagnosed through an assessment by your healthcare provider. You may be diagnosed with the disorder if you:
- Binge-eat an average of one or more times a week for three months or longer.
- Have three or more of the symptoms of the disorder.
Once you have been diagnosed, your level of binge-eating disorder will be rated from mild to severe. The rating is based on how often you binge-eat.
How is this treated?
This condition may be treated with:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This is a form of talk therapy that helps you recognise the thoughts, beliefs, and emotions that contribute to overeating. It also helps you change them.
- Interpersonal psychotherapy. This is a form of talk therapy that focuses on fixing relationship problems that trigger binge-eating episodes.
- Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT). This is a form of talk therapy that helps you learn skills to control your emotions and tolerate distress without binge-eating.
- Weight-loss programs. These can be important if you are overweight. Losing excess weight can improve your physical health and the way you feel about yourself.
Treatment is usually provided by mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed professional counsellors, and clinical social workers.
Follow these instructions at home:
- Eat a healthy diet that consists of lean meats and low-fat dairy products, as well as foods that are high in fibre, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans.
- Work to develop a healthy relationship with food. Talk with your healthcare provider or a nutrition specialist (dietitian). He or she can provide guidance about healthy eating and healthy lifestyle choices.
- Start an exercise routine and stay active. Aim for 30 or more minutes of exercise a day on five or more days a week to keep your body strong and healthy. You may need to exercise more if you want to lose weight. Talk with your healthcare provider about how much and what type of exercise you can do. Some ways to be active include:
- Playing sports.
- Running, walking, jogging, or hiking.
- Doing gardening work.
- Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your healthcare provider.
- Drink enough fluid to keep your urine pale yellow.
- Keep all follow-up visits as told by your healthcare provider. This is important.
Contact a healthcare provider if:
- Your symptoms get worse.
- You start having new symptoms.
- You start compensating for eating binges with harmful behaviour, such as:
- Making yourself vomit.
- Exercising too much.
- Using laxatives.
Get help right away if:
- You have serious thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else.
If you ever feel like you may hurt yourself or others, or have thoughts about taking your own life, get help right away.
- You may have binge-eating disorder if you have feelings of guilt from overeating, eat to the point of feeling uncomfortable, eat a large amount of food in a short time, or find yourself eating when you are not hungry. Seek help from your healthcare provider.
- The exact cause of a binge-eating disorder is not known. There are some risk factors for this disease, such as having a mental health disorder and having a history of unhealthy dieting.
- There are a variety of treatment options such as counselling therapy, medicines, and learning healthy ways to lose or maintain your weight. These can help you overcome your binge-eating disorder.
This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your healthcare provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.
Agüera, Z., Lozano-Madrid, M., Mallorquí-Bagué, N., Jiménez-Murcia, S., Menchón, J.M. and Fernández-Aranda, F., 2020. A review of binge eating disorder and obesity. neuropsychiatrie, pp.1-11.
Bohon, C., 2019. Binge eating disorder in children and adolescents. Child and adolescent psychiatric clinics of North America, 28(4), p.549.
Guerdjikova, A.I., Mori, N., Casuto, L.S. and McElroy, S.L., 2019. Update on binge eating disorder. Medical Clinics, 103(4), pp.669-680.
Hilbert, A., 2019. Binge-eating disorder. Psychiatric Clinics, 42(1), pp.33-43.
Rasmusson, G., Lydecker, J.A., Coffino, J.A., White, M.A. and Grilo, C.M., 2019. Household food insecurity is associated with binge‐eating disorder and obesity. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 52(1), pp.28-35.
Wassenaar, E., Friedman, J. and Mehler, P.S., 2019. Medical complications of binge eating disorder. Psychiatric Clinics, 42(2), pp.275-286.
Other articles you may like:
Get 25% cashback* on your BCLS/CPR + AED certificate when you work with us! Click on the banner below to find out more!