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Binge Eating Disorder

Definition

A person with binge eating disorder often eats an unusually large amount of food and feels that eating is out of control. Binge eating disorder often occurs with bulimia nervosa, another eating disorder that may also involve purging.

In others, binge eating can happen without other eating disorders. For example, the person may feel upset about binge eating, but may not try to undo these feelings by vomiting, exercising, or taking laxatives.

Causes    TOP

It is not clear exactly what causes binge eating disorder. Since a lot of people with binge eating disorder have a history of anxiety or depression, it may be related to these conditions. Studies also suggest that people with binge eating disorder may have other emotional problems, including low self-esteem, anger, and/or obsessive compulsive behavior.

The Brain

Brain Man Face
Depression may be a cause of binge eating disorder.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors    TOP

Binge eating disorder is more common in women. Other factors that may increase your chance of binge eating disorder include:

  • Obesity
  • Becoming overweight at a young age
  • A pattern of losing and gaining weight through dieting
  • History of depression, low self-esteem, and/or substance abuse
  • History of sexual abuse
  • Excess concern with body shape

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms include:

  • Episodes of eating large amounts of food over a short period of time
  • Obesity, in some cases

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a mental health professional or eating disorder specialist.

Binge eating is diagnosed when there is:

  • An average of at least 1 binge-eating episode a week for 3 months
  • A lack of control over eating behavior
  • Distress about the binge-eating episode
  • 3 or more episodes of:
    • Eating quickly
    • Eating until you are uncomfortably full
    • Eating large amounts when you are not hungry
    • Eating alone due to embarrassment
    • Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after eating

Treatment    TOP

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

In cognitive-behavioral therapy, a mental health professional will teach you how to keep track of your eating and change your unhealthy eating habits. This may involve learning how to respond to tough situations and how to feel better about your body shape and weight.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy may help to reduce depression associated with binge eating disorder. Therapy options may include yoga or aerobic exercise.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy    TOP

In interpersonal psychotherapy, a counselor will help you look at your personal relationships and make changes in areas that are negatively affecting your life.

Medications    TOP

Certain antidepressant medications may be helpful for some people with binge eating disorder and depression.

Prevention    TOP

There is no known way to prevent binge eating disorder. If you have young children, however, it is important to display positive and healthy attitudes about eating and body image.

RESOURCES:

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Mental Health Association
http://www.cmha.ca
National Eating Disorder Information Centre
http://www.nedic.ca

References:

Binge eating disorder. National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed May 5, 2016.
Binge eating disorder. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated October 25, 2013. Accessed May 5, 2016.
Binge eating disorder. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated August 2011. Accessed May 5, 2016.
Vancampfort D, Vanderlinden J, et al. A systematic review on physical therapy interventions for patients with binge eating disorder. Disabil Rehabil. 2013;35(26):2191-2196.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/20/2014

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