Binge Eating Disorder

What is Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is a problem that involves repeated episodes of binge-eating. Binge eating refers to eating a larger-than-normal amount of food in a short period of time, usually within 2 hours.

People with this condition may eat even when they are not hungry, and they do not stop eating even when they feel full. People with binge-eating disorder feel unable to control their eating.

Although they feel bad about overeating, they usually do not try to undo the bingeing by using laxatives or making themselves vomit. They do not starve themselves or exercise too much.

Bingeeating disorder usually starts in the teenage years or early 20s. It often gets worse with stress.

What are the causes?

The cause of this condition is not known.

What increases the risk?

The following factors may make you more likely to develop this condition:

  • Being a teenager or in your early 20s.
  • Being female. Binge-eating disorder can affect males, but it is more common in females.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Having a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety.
  • Having a substance use disorder, such as alcohol use disorder.
  • Having a history of unhealthy dieting, such as meal skipping, yo-yo dieting, food restricting, or avoiding certain kinds of foods.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Eating much more quickly than normal.
  • Eating to the point of feeling physically uncomfortable.
  • Eating large amounts of food when you are not hungry.
  • Eating alone because you are embarrassed about how much you are eating.
  • Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed through an assessment by your health care provider. You may be diagnosed with the disorder if you:

  • Binge-eat an average of one or more times a week for three months or longer.
  • Have three or more of the symptoms of the disorder.

Once you have been diagnosed, your level of binge-eating disorder will be rated from mild to severe. The rating is based on how often you binge-eat.

How is this treated?

This condition may be treated with:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is a form of talk therapy that helps you recognize the thoughts, beliefs, and emotions that contribute to overeating. It also helps you change them.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy. This is a form of talk therapy that focuses on fixing relationship problems that trigger binge-eating episodes.
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). This is a form of talk therapy that helps you learn skills to control your emotions and tolerate distress without binge-eating.
  • Medicine.
  • Weight-loss programs. These can be important if you are overweight. Losing excess weight can improve your physical health and the way you feel about yourself.

Treatment is usually provided by mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed professional counselors, and clinical social workers.

Follow these instructions at home:

Lifestyle

  • Eat a healthy diet that consists of lean meats and low-fat dairy products, as well as foods that are high in fiber, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans.
  • Work to develop a healthy relationship with food. Talk with your health care provider or a nutrition specialist (dietitian). He or she can provide guidance about healthy eating and healthy lifestyle choices.

Start an exercise routine and stay active. Aim for 30 or more minutes of exercise a day on 5 or more days a week to keep your body strong and healthy. You may need to exercise more if you want to lose weight. Talk with your health care provider about how much and what type of exercise you can do. Some ways to be active include:

  • Playing sports.
  • Biking.
  • Skating or skateboarding.
  • Dancing.
  • Running, walking, jogging, or hiking.
  • Doing yard work.

General instructions

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Drink enough fluid to keep your urine pale yellow.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Where to find more information

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA): www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • You start having new symptoms.
  • You start compensating for eating binges with harmful behaviors, such as:
    • Making yourself vomit.
    • Exercising too much.
    • Using laxatives.

Get help right away if:

  • You have serious thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else.

You can go to your nearest emergency department or call:

  • Your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.).
  • A suicide crisis helpline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This is open 24 hours a day.

Summary

  • You may have binge-eating disorder if you have feelings of guilt from overeating, eat to the point of feeling uncomfortable, eat a large amount of food in a short time, or find yourself eating when you are not hungry. Seek help from your health care provider.
  • The exact cause of a binge-eating disorder is not known. There are some risk factors for this disease, such as having a mental health disorder and having a history of unhealthy dieting.
  • There are a variety of treatment options such as counseling therapy, medicines, and learning healthy ways to lose or maintain your weight. These can help you overcome your binge-eating disorder.
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