Binge eating disorder (BED) is a condition of compulsive overeating. Patients eat tremendous amounts of food, and don’t have the ability to stop. Food is used as a coping mechanism for unwanted emotions and stress. It differs from bulimia in that it is not associated with trying to purge after binging. Nor is it associated with the use of laxatives or excessive exercising.

BED is found more commonly in women than men. In the United States, it affects 3.5% of women (5.6 million people) and 2% of men (3.1 million people). Rates among all racial groups are similar. It typically begins in the late teens or early 20s.

Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

Emotional and behavioral signs of binge eating disorder include:
  • Consuming food even when full or not hungry
  • Eating vast amounts of food in a 2-hour period
  • Eating until you are uncomfortably full
  • Feeling that eating behaviors are out of control
  • Eating alone
  • Eating rapidly when binging
  • Feeling negative emotions about binges, like guilt, depression, disgust or shame

Causes of Binge Eating Disorder

While there is no definite known cause of binge eating disorder, studies strongly suggest that it stems from trauma, which may be from:
  • Negative events
  • Physical abuse
  • Stress
  • Poor body image
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sexual abuse in youth
  • Depression

There is a relationship between binge eating and strict dieting (calorie restrictions of 1000 per day). There is also evidence that this disorder has a genetic component as it has been shown to run in families.

Medical Conditions Associated with Binge Eating Disorder

Illnesses linked to those suffering from binge eating include:
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Personality disorder
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Major depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Kleptomania
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Bulimia nervosa

Due to eating foods high in sugar, fat and salt but low in vitamins and minerals, people with binge eating disorder are at a higher risk for:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Gallbladder disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Sleep apnea
  • Antisocial behavior