Binge Eating Disorder

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder among Americans. It is characterized by recurring episodes of excessive food consumption, over a short period of time and often to the point of discomfort, accompanied by a loss of control, and feelings of shame and guilt. 

Binge eating disorder may also be referred to as emotional eating or compulsive overeating or food addiction. Binge eating disorder is a serious psychological illness which severely interferes with one’s health and happiness. It frequently results in stress, isolation and reduced quality of life.

What is Considered Binge Eating?

A binge eating episode can manifest in several ways, including eating very rapidly, eating beyond the point of feeling full, eating when not physically hungry or eating alone in secrecy.

The food consumed during a binge episode can vary from person to person, but often involves foods identified as “forbidden foods.” These may include sweets, high-fat and processed foods. A binge eating episode can last over an hour, though it may be much shorter or longer. Sometimes binge eating is a planned activity and other times it is not.

Most binges involve the consumption of more than 1,000 calories, with a quarter of binges exceeding 2,000 calories. Unlike other eating disorders, those with binge eating disorder do not engage in compensatory behaviors like purging, excessive exercise or fasting, designed to “undo” the calories consumed during a binge.

Binge Eating Disorder Diagnosis

For someone to be diagnosed with binge eating disorder, the binge episodes must occur at least once a week for three months. However, related episodes of shorter frequency are still a cause for concern. People often experience binge eating for months or years before seeking treatment.

Learn more about binge eating disorder diagnostic criteria.

What Causes Binge Eating?

There are many causes of binge eating disorder, but binge eating is often a mechanism for coping or an attempt to manage emotional pain or stress. Individuals often describe a feeling of being “zoned out,” unaware of the magnitude of food being consumed and lacking the ability to stop eating.

While certain thoughts and feelings can be temporarily relieved by a binge eating episode, it is often followed by intense emotional turmoil. Feelings of guilt about eating certain foods or eating in a certain way can contribute to the shame around having binge eating disorder. Shame and guilt can affect attention and concentration at school or work and can result in secretiveness around behaviors. It affects relationships and increases social isolation.

Although binge eating disorder has not been an official clinical diagnosis for many years, it’s a condition that has left a lasting impact on nearly eight million Americans.

Binge Eating Disorder Treatment

Binge eating disorder is a serious eating disorder that can require professional treatment. Walden’s binge eating disorder treatment is based on evidence-based practices and skills training, which are proven to yield a higher rate of positive outcomes. This includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) pharmacotherapy and Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT).

Health Risks of Binge Eating Disorder

The health risks of binge eating disorder affect both physical and mental health. Binge eating disorder can result in psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, social isolation, and feelings of worthlessness. Physical health risks of binge eating disorder include obesity, and related complications such as heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Binge Eating Disorder FAQs

While recurrent binge eating can ultimately result in weight gain, binge eating disorder is not directly associated with weight – one does not have to be overweight to have it.

Approximately 2.8 million Americans have binge eating disorder, according to NEDA. It is the most common eating disorder in the United States.

It affects individuals of all ages, genders, races and ethnicities; an estimated 60% of cases occur among women. Binge eating disorder affects 3.5% of women, 2% of men and 1.6% of adolescents in the United States.

The typical age range of those who experience binge eating disorder is broader than that of eating disorders. Generally, binge eating disorder is most common in adulthood, specifically early adulthood for women and midlife for men. Research shows many binge eating behaviors first develop in teenage years and early adulthood.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), some studies have shown that gay, lesbian and bisexual teens are at higher risk for developing binge eating disorder.

We’re Here to Support Your Binge Eating Recovery

If you are concerned that you – or a loved one – may have an eating disorder, we are here to help. Please call (888) 228-1253 to speak with a member of our admissions teamWalden eating disorders intake specialist, or complete the form on this page, to start the road to recovery.

Learn more about our virtual Free to Be intensive outpatient program for adults who struggle with binge eating disorder, emotional eating, compulsive eating, and food addiction. This virtual treatment program is flexible, offering both daytime and evening programming, so get started on your path to recovery today.