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Binge Eating Disorder Overview
Binge-eating disorder is a serious eating disorder in which you frequently consume unusually large amounts of food. Almost everyone overeats on occasion, such as having seconds or thirds of a holiday meal. But for some people, overeating crosses the line to binge-eating disorder and it becomes a regular occurrence, usually done in secret.
When you have binge-eating disorder, you may be deeply embarrassed about gorging and vow to stop. But you feel such a compulsion that you can’t resist the urges and continue binge eating. If you have binge-eating disorder, treatment can help.
What Are the Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder?
Most people overeat from time to time, and many people say they frequently eat more than they should. Eating large amounts of food, however, does not mean that a person has binge eating disorder. People with binge eating disorder have several of the following symptoms weekly for at least 3 months:
- Frequent episodes of eating what others would consider an abnormally large amount of food
- Frequent feelings of being unable to control what or how much is being eaten
- Eating much more rapidly than usual
- Eating until uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food, even when not physically hungry
- Eating alone out of embarrassment at the quantity of food being eaten
- Feelings of disgust, depression, or guilt after overeating
People who have binge eating disorder also tend to have:
- Fluctuations in weight
- Feelings of low self-esteem
- Loss of sexual desire
- Frequent dieting
Helping a loved one who has symptoms
A person with binge-eating disorder can become an expert at hiding behavior, making it hard for others to detect the problem. If you have a loved one you think may have symptoms of binge-eating disorder, have an open and honest discussion about your concerns. You can offer encouragement and support and help your loved one find a qualified doctor or mental health provider and make an appointment. You may even offer to go along.
What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?
The exact cause of binge eating disorder is still unknown, and researchers are just beginning to understand the consequences of the disorder and the factors affecting its development. Like other eating disorders, binge eating disorder seems to result from a combination of psychological, biological, and environmental factors.
Risk factors of Eating Disorder
Factors that can increase your risk of developing binge-eating disorder include:
- Family history and biological factors. You’re much more likely to have an eating disorder if your parents or siblings have (or had) an eating disorder. Some people with binge-eating disorder may have inherited genes that make them more susceptible to developing the disorder, or their brain chemicals may have changed.
- Psychological issues. Most people who have binge-eating disorder are overweight, acutely aware of their appearance, and feel bad about it. When you have binge-eating disorder, you may act impulsively and feel you can’t control your behavior. You may have a history of depression or substance abuse. And you may have trouble coping with stress, worry, anger, sadness and boredom.
- Dieting. Many people with binge-eating disorder have a history of dieting some have dieted to excess dating back to childhood. Dieting may trigger an urge to binge eat, especially if you have low self-esteem and symptoms of depression.
- Your age. Although people of any age can have binge-eating disorder, it often begins in the late teens or early 20s.
Binge Eating Disorder Treatment
Treatment for binge eating disorder includes counseling and sometimes medicine. Goals in treating binge eating often include:
- Reducing your number of eating binges.
- Developing healthy eating and exercise habits.
- Dealing with shame or guilt about your eating disorder.
- Developing a healthy view of yourself and your body.
- Getting treatment for other conditions that you also might have, such as depression, anxiety, or health problems related to being overweight.
Most people with binge eating disorder need treatment, but many people who have an eating disorder try to keep it secret or deny that they have a problem. Some might join weight management programs to lose weight but do not seek treatment for binge eating or for mental health problems related to the condition. It often is a family member or friend who convinces the person to seek treatment.
If you think that you or someone you know might have an eating disorder, talk to your doctor. Signs of an eating disorder that needs treatment include binge eating, concern or embarrassment about eating behaviors, secretive eating habits, preoccupation with weight or body image, or an unhealthy body weight because of eating problems.