Definition

Binge eating disorder is when a person has repeat episodes of eating large amounts of food in a short period of time. The person does not feel like they have control over the behavior.

Causes

The cause is not known. It may be linked to problems with how the brain works. Genes may also be involved.

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Depression may be a factor in binge eating disorder.

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Risk Factors

This problem is more common in women. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Having other family members with this problem
  • Being overweight or obese
  • A pattern of losing and gaining weight through dieting
  • Having other mental health problems, such as depression or obsessive compulsive behavior
  • Problems with anger or self-esteem
  • Prior abuse
  • Worrying too much about one's body shape

Symptoms

The main symptom is eating large amounts of food over a short period of time.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will be asked about your eating habits. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to end problem behaviors and return to and stay at a healthy weight. Choices are:

  • Working with a dietitian to lose weight safely
  • Mental health counseling methods, such as individual or group cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Medicines to reduce binge eating symptoms

Prevention

There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.

RESOURCES:

American Psychiatric Association
https://www.psychiatry.org

National Eating Disorders Association
https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Mental Health Association
https://cmha.ca

National Eating Disorder Information Center
http://www.nedic.ca

REFERENCES:

Berkman ND, Brownley KA, et al. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Comparative Effectiveness Review on Management and Outcomes of Binge-Eating Disorder. AHRQ Comparative Effectiveness Review 2015 Dec:160.

Binge eating disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/binge-eating-disorder. Accessed November 18, 2020.

Binge eating disorder. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/binge-eating.html. Accessed November 18, 2020.

Binge eating disorder. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/binge-eating-disorder. Accessed November 18, 2020.

Eating disorder types and symptoms. National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders website. Available at: http://www.anad.org/education-and-awareness/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorder-types-and-symptoms. Accessed November 18, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 11/18/2020