eating disorders help & support mental health news & info contact us pale reflections home RSS feed go login help register

binge-eating disorder

What is binge-eating disorder?

Binge-eating disorder is a psychological illness characterized by the sufferer frequently eating excessive amounts of food, sometimes even when they are not hungry.

Binge-eating disorder is not the same as compulsive overeating, although both involve consuming large quantities of food. The psychological aspects of binge-eating disorder make it stand apart from compulsive overeating. Sufferers of binge-eating disorder usually feel guilt, disgust and depression after binging (similar to sufferers of bulimia), whereas sufferers of compulsive overeating tend to feel relief or a sense of joy. Additionally, binge-eating disorder involves binging on larger than normal quantities of food, whereas a sufferer of compulsive overeating usually “grazes” on food throughout the day rather than binging.

According to The Eating Disorders Sourcebook (Costin, Carolyn), approximately one in five young women report that they have had a binging relationship with food. The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness estimates that 1-4% of the US population suffers from binge-eating disorder, and men make up about 40% of these numbers. They also report that the onset of binge-eating disorder usually occurs during the late adolescence or early twenties. However, it should be noted that binge-eating disorder can affect anybody, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.

Facts and statistics for binge-eating disorder


Causes of binge-eating disorder

As with other eating disorders, there is no pre-determined cause of binge-eating disorder and the reasons for the onset of the disorder may vary from person to person. Is it not uncommon for binge-eating disorder to lead to bulimia. Binge-eating disorder is a spontaneous illness associated with low self-esteem. The binges are distractions that allow the sufferer to not think about the real root of their problems.

Causes of eating disorders


Behavioral signs and symptoms

Somebody suffering from binge-eating disorder will often eat in secret when they are alone. Binges may occur at night and the sufferer may hoard food in their bedroom or in other hidden locations. A sufferer may consume many thousands of calories during a binge which can lead to weight gain and obesity.

A sign that is frequently overlooked is financial difficulty. The cost of food for a binge-eating sufferer can be many times that of the average person.

Other symptoms include avoiding social situations (particularly situations involving food), feelings of depression and anxiety, and eating to deal with negative emotions.
visit milestones in recovery

Physical signs and symptoms

There are many physical symptoms associated with binge-eating disorder. Most of the symptoms are long term unless the sufferer is also purging (but not purging often enough to be clinically diagnosed with bulimia). Purging can have immediate consequences as well as long term ones. Some of the physical signs and symptoms associated with binge-eating disorder include:
  • Weight gain, often leading to obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Chronic kidney problems or kidney failure
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Complications during pregnancy
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Skin disorders
What these symptoms mean


Diagnostic criteria (DSM IV)

There is currently no diagnostic code for binge-eating disorder because the DSM believes more research is required. However, they do offer some guidelines for diagnosis.

1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating, including eating an abnormally large amount of food and feeling a lack of control over eating.

2. Binge eating that’s associated with at least three of these factors: eating rapidly; eating until uncomfortably full; eating large amounts when not hungry; eating alone out of embarrassment; feeling disgusted, depressed or guilty after eating.

3. Distress about binge eating.

4. Binge eating occurring at least twice a week for at least six months.

5. Binge eating not associated with inappropriate methods to compensate for overeating, such as self-induced vomiting.

Diagnostic criteria for all eating disorders