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Compulsive Overeating Disorder

Compulsive overeating disorders, as the name implies, are characterized by uncontrollable, excessive eating, followed by feelings of shame and guilt. Unlike those with bulimia, compulsive-eaters typically do not purge their food. However, many bulimics are also compulsive eaters.

Compulsive overeating is even more common than anorexia or bulimia. About one in five young women report that they have had compulsive overeating problems, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Unlike anorexia and bulimia, compulsive overeating is also relatively common in men, who account for about 40% of compulsive overeating disorder cases.

Compulsive overeaters often feel shame and guilt over their condition. While compulsive overeating results in weight gain, it is not the same as obesity. Not everyone who is overweight is a compulsive overeater.

Medical Impact of A Compulsive Overeating Disorder

Compulsive overeaters are often obese or overweight and are susceptible to health problems caused by being overweight, including high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol. Those who are obese increase their risk of heart diseases, many types of cancer and gallbladder disease. Compulsive overeaters often have fatigue and nausea.

Like those with other overeating disorders, compulsive overeaters often have other psychiatric illnesses and are especially susceptible to depression.

Signs of A Compulsive Overeating Disorder

Those with compulsive overeating disorder typically are overweight or obese. They feel like they have no control over their overeating behavior, and eat in secret and when they are not hungry. They also feel shame and remorse over their behavior.

Compulsive overeaters may hide food. Excessive amounts of food containers and wrappers are also evidence of compulsive overeating.

Causes of A Compulsive Overeating Disorder

Causes of compulsive overeating vary, but there are usually a variety of contributing factors. A traumatic event, which may have taken place years before compulsive overeating manifested itself, is often a cause. Such events may include:
  • Sexual abuse or rape
  • Emotional abuse
  • Parents’ divorce
  • Death of a loved one
  • Physical violence

Compulsive overeating begins gradually and often starts when children are first developing their overeating patterns. Some children turn to food whenever they are upset. They begin to use food to soothe their feelings and that’s how compulsive overeating patterns develop.

Helping Someone With A Compulsive Overeating Disorder

If you suspect that you or someone you know has a compulsive overeating disorder, seek professional counseling immediately.