Binge eating disorder: Risk factors, symptoms, and treatment

Binge eating disorder involves periods of excessive overeating. However, unlike in other eating disorders, such as bulimia, the person does not usually make themselves vomit after eating.

The condition can occur on its own or alongside other disorders or diseases.

Binge eating can encourage the development of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Fast facts on binge eating

Binge eating disorder differs from bulimia, as there is no purge after the binge.

People with the condition feel they have no control over their eating.

Depression and other psychological factors can trigger the condition.

One bingeing session can consist of up to 20,000 calories.

Obesity is a possible complication.

Symptoms

Woman looks in fridge
Binge eating is a compulsion that has serious psychological and physical effects.

When people have a binge eating disorder, also referred to as compulsive eating, they frequently eat very large amounts of food.

This compulsion is known as a binge.

In some cases, 10,000 to 20,000 calories of food may be consumed in one bout of bingeing. The average person consumes between 1,500 to 3,000 calories per day.

However, there are varying definitions for a binge. It may typically last a couple of hours. Some experts, however, say a binge may last up to a whole day.

In many cases of binge eating disorder, there are no clear signs or symptoms.

Weight gain is the main sign of binge eating disorder. A significant proportion of people with the disorder are overweight.

The following signs and symptoms of obesity, as well as potential consequences, may include:

diabetes

heart disease

hypertension

some cancers

high cholesterol

gallbladder disease

A person with binge eating disorder may also:

crave sugar

experience stomach pain

find high or low temperatures difficult to bear

have more frequent headaches

Psychological characteristics include:

a cycle of guilt, starting with despair at being trapped in a binge, followed by guilt then an attempt at self-discipline before bingeing again

low self-esteem

self-blame, which further damages self-esteem

The following psychological problems may be underlying or may occur as a consequence of binge eating:

depression

panic attacks

lack of focus

anxiety

despair

A person with a binge eating disorder may typically:

have periods when huge amounts of food are consumed

eat even when full

eat rapidly during a bout of bingeing

feel that the eating behavior is uncontrollable

have depression

have anxiety

diet frequently without any success

often eat alone

hoard food

hide empty food containers

feel remorse, shame, guilt, disgust, despair about their eating.

When to see a doctor

As binge eating is behavioral, it can often be the case that a person will not recognize that the habit has become a medical issue until their body weight increases to a level that will impact health.

It is therefore very important to see a doctor as soon as you feel that it has become a compulsion or addiction to eating excessive amounts of food.

The issue can cause feelings of embarrassment and isolation, but it is crucial to act on the advice of people close to you if they have identified destructive patterns in the way you consume food.

If you regularly experience related conditions, such as depression or anxiety, and find yourself binge eating, it is important to address these underlying causes with a physician.

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What is binge eating disorder?

A person with a binge eating disorder feels compelled to eat too much. Individuals will consume enormous quantities of food, even when they are not hungry.

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