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Home > Health Library > Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating is an eating disorder. People who have it eat large amounts of food in a short time. They binge eat regularly for several months. They may feel out of control and eat until they are painfully full.
Some people who binge have a normal weight. But over time, many gain weight and have problems from being obese. People who have binge eating disorder also often have depression, anxiety, or other emotional problems.
Most people who have binge eating disorder need treatment to get better.
Binge eating disorder isn't the same thing as bulimia. Unlike bulimia, if you have binge eating disorder, you don't vomit or try other ways to get rid of calories. But you might try to limit how much food you eat between eating binges. Binge eating disorder is sometimes called compulsive overeating.
Experts are not sure what causes binge eating disorder. But it seems to run in families. Cultural attitudes about body shape and weight might also play a role. Anxiety, depression, or stress can cause some people to binge eat.
Symptoms of binge eating disorder include eating too much in a short period of time (less than 2 hours) on a regular basis, feeling like you can't stop eating, feeling upset after binge eating, and eating alone. Having even a few symptoms can be a sign of a problem that needs treatment.
A doctor can find out if you have binge eating disorder by asking about eating habits and past health. Your doctor may also ask about your mental health and how you feel about food and your body. If you're overweight, your doctor may do a physical exam to rule out problems that it can cause.
Treatment for binge eating disorder includes counseling and medicine. You may need treatment for a long time to fully recover. You also may need treatment for other problems that often occur with binge eating disorder. These can include bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, obesity, or problems with being overweight.
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Experts don't know for sure what causes someone to have an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating. But certain things put a person at greater risk for getting an eating disorder. Some of these things include:
Having risk factors for it doesn't mean a person will get an eating disorder. But knowing some of the things that can add to the risk may help to see a problem early when it is easier to treat.
From time to time, most of us feel like we have eaten more than we should. But eating too much every now and then doesn't mean that you have binge eating disorder. If you have binge eating disorder, you may:
Even if you don't have all these symptoms, having a few can be a sign of a problem that needs treatment. It's important to get help if you or someone you know has any of these symptoms.
When you have binge eating disorder, you eat large amounts of food in a short time. You may feel out of control and eat so much that it hurts.
Frequent binge eating can cause you to gain a large amount of weight. This can happen even if you try to restrict your food intake between binges. People with binge eating disorder may try to follow strict diets. But dieting does not stop binge eating in the long term and might actually make the problem worse.
You might feel so discouraged at times that you stop trying to control your eating disorder. One binge might merge into the next, with no period of normal eating in between.
In most cases, you will need treatment to get better. If you have binge eating disorder, treatment can prevent health problems, help you feel better about yourself, and improve the quality of your life.
Treatment for binge eating disorder includes counseling and medicine. You may need treatment for a long time to fully recover.
The goals of treatment are to help you:
You also may need treatment for other problems that often occur with binge eating disorder. These can include bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, obesity, or problems caused by being overweight.
It will take some time and patience to quit binge eating and lose excess weight. Some people find that they still have trouble losing excess weight, even after they stop binge eating. Talk to your doctor about what results are realistic to expect from treatment.
Here are some things you can do to take care of yourself during recovery from an eating disorder.
If you think your child has an eating disorder:
If you're worried about someone you know:
When someone you care about has an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating and is in treatment, it is important that you show support. Try the following ideas.
Eating disorders happen for many different reasons. Many people who have an eating disorder come from families in which other members have eating disorders or have other conditions such as depression. This doesn't mean that a family member caused the disorder. It simply means that these conditions seem more likely to happen in that family.
Current as of:
February 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineW. Stewart Agras MD, FRCPC - Psychiatry
Current as of: February 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & W. Stewart Agras MD, FRCPC - Psychiatry
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