What is Binge Eating Disorder?

If you have binge eating disorder, you may experience episodes where you can’t stop eating even when you want to or have the urge to continue eating long after you are full. While weight gain is a common side effect of binge eating disorder (BED), people with this disorder are all sizes and shapes and may be normal weight, overweight or obese.

An estimated 3.5% of American women and 2% of American men have binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder often begins after significant dieting or other triggering events, and commonly starts in late adolescence but can occur earlier or later in life. 

Binge Eating Disorder Symptoms

All of us occasionally overeat. However, if you’re living with binge eating disorder, you may find that you frequently feel out of control around certain trigger foods, or even any food at all. You may experience shame, guilt, or distress after binge eating. Other binge eating disorder symptoms include: 

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food in a short period of time
  • Hoarding or expressing extreme anxiety about being without a certain food
  • Eating alone or in secret, fear of eating in public or with others
  • Withdrawal from normal activities and secretiveness
  • Rapid, unexplained weight gain
  • A poor body image and low self-esteem
  • Developing food rituals or other disruptions of normal eating behavior
  • Constantly dieting or trying new fad diets; yo-yo dieting or weight cycling 
  • Feelings of disgust, depression, worthlessness, or guilt after eating
  • An inability to detect or respond to your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues

Binge Eating Disorder Causes and Risk Factors

While there is no definitive root cause of developing binge eating disorder, you may be more likely to develop it if you have any of the following genetic, biological, social, or psychological risk factors:

  • If other members of your family or friend circle have an eating disorder
  • If you have a history of other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or another eating disorder
  • If you have a history of dieting or food restriction
  • You have a history of trauma including sexual assault or abuse as a child or adult
  • You have a tendency toward ritualistic or obsessive behavior
  • You have experienced periods of food insecurity, food deprivation, or hunger
  • You have experienced weight shaming, bullying, or weight stigma
  • You have experienced a crisis or feel as though your life is out of control in some way
  • You have negative body image and/or low self-esteem

Binge Eating Disorder Treatment

Binge eating disorder, while dangerous to your mental and physical health, is treatable. Your doctor and therapist can help you come up with a plan that may include medication, therapy, and other types of support, including nutrition counseling, to help address your binge eating disorder.

Medication: Many patients find relief from some of their triggers or symptoms through medications including antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Your doctor or therapist can help you find the right combination. 

Therapy: Therapy can help you learn to establish a balanced and peaceful relationship with food, examine the triggers of your binge eating disorder and find new ways to cope. Family, individual, group, and other kinds of therapy are available for you at The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt. Learn more about therapy and our levels of treatment.

Education: Learning more about your disorder will help you understand some of the personal and sociocultural factors contributing to binge eating disorder and when you need to get extra help. 

Support: Getting support during your recovery is an important step to getting back to feeling like yourself again. At Sheppard Pratt, find a support group that can help you get the help that you need to recover from  binge eating disorder.