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Dr. Heidi Flagg Text was Updated on: 03/09/2022 Next review: 03/03/2023

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder – Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Today Binge Eating disorder is one of the newest yet very common eating disorder in US. Binge eating disorder (BED) is a severe over-eating disorder in which a person repeatedly eats food. Persons suffering from Binge eating disorder, are unable to stop and has no control over their eating. Persons who binge eats, use food to deal and overcome stress, guilt shame, or unwanted emotions. Binge eating if untreated can be a life-threatening disorder.

In early days the BED disorder was classified as the subtype of another eating disorder the EDNOS (also known as OSFED). But studies and researches conducted in early 2013 has revealed that BED should be separated from EDNOS.

How Binge Eating Disorder is Different?

Binge eating disorder is nothing like overeating during holidays or special occasions. It is even not same as other eating disorders like Bulimia nervosa. In this eating disorder you eat food more often and quickly even when you are not feeling hungry. Unlike Bulimia, the BED persons doesn’t feel the urge to reduce their eating habit.

It can occur in both men and women who are experiencing stress, anxiety or other distressful situations... The repeated over eating leads to obesity and weight gain, which in turns triggers the need to eat even more so that the person can suppress their guilt and shame.

How Binge Eating is Different from Bulimia Nervosa?

Most of people confuse binge eating with Bulimia Nervosa. Because in both of these eating disorder the patient over eats. But people with binge eating disorder doesn’t do anything to compensate the extra food they have consumed.

Unlike bulimia a BED person does not take any laxatives, exercise or vomits to burns calories or take out excessive food taken. Instead, to suppress the feelings of guilt and shame, the BED persons eats more food to make themselves better. In other words binge eating is a food addiction where one wants more food even once they are full.

BED affected person’s tries to lose weight through dieting but ends up eating even more because dieting in binge eating triggers the urge to eat food.

What are the Causes of Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder is more common in women and obese people. People can show symptoms of BED in early 20s. The exact cause of Binge eating is not known yet, but studies have shown that about 2 out of every 3 persons who are obese suffers from BED.

Moreover, binge eating can also be triggered by genetic, biological, psychological factors and even long-term excessive dieting can also lead you to Binge eating. Persons who suffers from binge eating, also have anxiety, stress or depression, and use food to cope with their mental distress.

How Genetics, Psychological and Other Factors Increase the Risk of BED?

Binge eating can be caused by any factor either psychological or biological.


Binge eating disorder can be transferred in persons through genes. It means it there is a risk of getting BED if your parents or siblings have or had suffered from BED or any other eating disorder. Thus if your family has a history of eating disorder there is a risk of BED inherited through genes.

Excessive or Long-Term Dieting: On a first thought this may sound unusual that dieting can lead you to binge eating. But it has been seen that many people who has a history of long-term or strict dieting has BED. This is because when your body is gets restricted calories, it might urge you to binge eat afterwards. This urge would be stronger if the persons are already battling with depression, stress or anxiety.

Biological Factors

In additions to genetics, other biological factors such as abnormalities like genetic mutations or hormonal irregularities can also cause overeating and food addiction.

Psychological Factors

Binge eating is strongly linked or co-related to psychological issues. It is more common in people who already has some other psychological issues such as depression, stress, anxiety, short temperament or anger, body dissatisfaction, unable to cope with emotions & feelings, and low-self-esteem. People suffering from these psychological issues are more prone to compulsive eating as compared to people who are mentally healthy.

Sociological Factors

One of the major reasons of binge eating is the social and cultural factors. People who has a social or cultural pressure can show symptoms of Binge eating disorder. Social pressures include body shaming, bullying, isolation, etc. Media has also a great influence in triggering BED, where a person wants to achieve the beauty standards and fails to do so.

Traumatic situations such as sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, bad parenting and even poor financial conditions can lead to binge eating where someone seeks comfort in eating food. Binge eating itself can attract a lot of disorders and if untreated it can lead to a reduced life span.

Are there any Specific Signs or Symptoms of Binge Eating?

Usually it is difficult to tell whether a person is suffering from BED or not, because the persons with BED are not very open about their compulsive eating and food addiction. They feel shame to share their eating habits with someone and there-fore the symptoms are often hidden.

Persons suffering from BED shows physical, behavioral and emotional signs. These symptoms include:

  • Mostly people with BED are over-weight or obese.
  • Consumption of large amount of food than usual.
  • Over-eating in a specific time slot, for example continuously eating over a period of 2 hours.
  • Not losing weight even with the dieting.
  • Unable to stop or control eating.
  • Secretly keeping food to eat later.
  • Eating uncontrollably in isolation.
  • Lack of sensation or numbness while eating.
  • Not feeling satisfied even when you are no longer hungry.
  • Frequent and rapid eating.
  • Persons with BED are mostly ashamed and embarrassed of their eating habits.

Why it is Important to Seek Help for BED?

Binge eating is not a healthy sign, in fact it is listed as one of the most serve life-threatening eating disorder. BED not only effects our physical health but it also influence the mental abilities and health of a person.

Binge eating itself is a trigger for stress and depression. Many people who have BED has low self-esteem and feels guilty and ashamed about themselves. People with BED if not treated in time can be indulged into viscous eating cycle.

Binge eating can cause the following complications if not treated properly:

  • Depression or anxiety.
  • Hypertension.
  • Obesity.
  • Cardiovascular and Gallbladder diseases.
  • Hypertension and Gastrointestinal difficulties.
  • Poor life quality and reduced life span.
  • Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Sleep and breathing problems like sleep apnea and insomnia.

Binge eating is also linked with other psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder and substance use disorder which mostly includes drug and alcohol consumption.

Binge Eating Recurring Episodes of Food:

As it is a compulsive eating of large amount of food disorder, therefore its severity is determined by recurrent episodes of food eating. The doctors checks the binge episodes over a week in BED patients. The researches have shown that average recurrent episodes of Binge eating occurs twice every week for 6 months.

Different persons can show more recurrent episodes over the week and for more than 6 months. The more the occurrence of recurrent episodes of binge eating over the week, the more severs the disorder will be. Therefore the first diagnosis of Binge eating is occurrence of recurrent eating episodes.

Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder

Like any other psychological or physical disorder, treatment for binge eating disorder is also possible. Binge eating can be treated with both psychiatry sessions and taking some medications. In cases where the disorder is not severe this people can overcome by talking to your doctor.

Treatment of binge disorder also require support and encouragement of friends and family. Because persons suffering from Binge disorder feels guilty, embarrassment and shame with their unusual eating habits therefore they might find it difficult to reach out for help.

If you see any symptom or sign of BED in your family member or friend try to reach out them and help them to share their problem. As mentioned above, dieting is not the solution to treat BED, it is a trigger for BED.

You can recover from BED if You Follow Following Steps

At first it might seem difficult to overcome Binge eating, but if you are consistent and regular then you can overcome the binge eating order. In addition to medical treatment there are certain other productive activities which a BED person needs to adopt to prevent and overcome BED.

Regular Walk. Walk is a solution for many problems. And therefore it is very helpful to fight the binge eating disorder. A walk after a recurrent episode of binge eating can help you overcome the guilt and clear your mind.

Moreover, walk can accelerate digestive activity and it will relieves you from bloating and feeling uncomfortable from over eating. With better metabolism, you can burn more calories, and it will boost your self-esteem and you can cope better with your negative feelings and emotions.

Daily Exercise. if you want to get back on your normal eating habits from binge eating then you need to be regular and consistent in exercise. A 15 to 30 minute exercise in a day can help you to relax as well as burns your calories which you have consumed through over-eating.

Physical activities like walk and exercise triggers the release of some neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are good for mood elevation and reduces the feelings of depression and anxiety.

If you are unable to do the exercise, then try to do yoga every morning and evening. Yoga is perfect for physical and mental relaxation. And once you start feeling relax, it will automatically help you deal with stress and anxiety and hence you will not feel the need to binge eat.

Healthy Breakfast and More Vegetables. Dieting is not a solution for binge eating, and hence it is not recommended. Instead, persons who suffers from Binge eating are recommended to eat breakfast which is low on fat and calories. Persons with BED must eat fruits and vegetables and should avoid fattening food.

Make Sure to Drink Sufficient Water. Drinking water a lot of water is very helpful to control your appetite. The more water you will drink the more it will keep your stomach filled and you will feel less urge to consume food. It will also help you to lose weight and prevent over-eating.

To control over-eating in BED, make sure to drink water after every episode of binge eating. Sufficient water intake increases and improves metabolism and helps to burn off your calories. It will help you with weight loss. It is therefore recommended to stay hydrated throughout the day and even after binge eating.

Do not Skip Your Meals. Instead of skipping meals, make sure that you are taking your meals on proper time. If you take your meal on proper time, your stomach will get enough time to digest food and you will feel satisfied.

If you skip your meals, it not help you to cope with the uneasiness and emptiness, it would rather increase the cravings and urge you to eat more than you require. Many studies done on binge eating have shown that people who take meals on proper time shows less tendencies of binge eating. Because taking meal on proper time makes you feel more satisfied and fulfilled.


Avoid late Night Eating and Eating In front of TV: two more factors that increases the risk of binge eating is eating food over the night or eating in front of screens. It is forbidden for BED persons to watch anything while eating because if they do so they will feel the urge to eat even more.
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