What Is Binge Eating?

Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder that involves episodes of uncontrolled, impulsive, and continuous eating of large amounts of food at one time (hence the term binge). Binge eating disorder can be very damaging to both your health and your quality of life if left untreated, but it can be treated in most cases, so it’s important to get proper diagnosis and treatment if you think you or someone you know may be suffering from a binge eating disorder.

Binge eating is considered a disorder because it can lead to serious health problems, both mental and physical. It’s often a way of coping with stress or other negative emotions. People who binge eat usually feel out of control and ashamed afterward. Binge eating can also interfere with work, school, and personal relationships. If you think you might have a problem with binge eating, it’s important to talk to a doctor or therapist.

Experts say that for some people, it could be an addiction, while others might have an underlying issue like anxiety or depression that leads them to turn to food for comfort. In the case of someone suffering from bulimia nervosa, they might experience episodes of bingeing followed by purging the food consumed (such as self-induced vomiting).

Binge eating disorder is more common in those who are overweight and obese. It’s important not to let this label discourage you from seeking help if you’re struggling with weight gain due to binging. And remember that any struggle you’re going through will pass if you take care of yourself physically and mentally now! Read on to find out more about Binge Eating Disorder (BED).

What Defines Binge Eating Disorder?

A binge is defined as eating an unusually large amount of food in a short time and feeling out of control while doing so. This kind of overeating is different from simply overeating on occasion. Binge eating disorder (BED) is a serious, treatable eating disorder characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating.

People with BED often eat large amounts of food even when they’re not hungry and feel unable to stop eating once they start. Bingeing may be followed by feelings of shame, guilt, or disgust. As the binge-eating cycle continues, people will likely try to compensate for their behavior by making themselves throw up or abusing laxatives. Others will exercise excessively or fast to counter the calories they consumed during the binge episode.

Many people with this condition don’t realize they have it because it’s not like other eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, where weight loss is seen. In many cases, people are overweight or obese, making this more difficult to identify because it can’t always be seen at first glance. However, someone who has had three full days of extreme overeating without any other physical signs should immediately seek help for their binging problem!

What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the causes of binge eating disorder (BED) are unique to each individual. However, some common contributing factors may play a role in the development of BED, including:

Body Image Issues

Most people see binge eating disorder as a problem with food. But many people believe the root cause of binge eating is body image issues. People with binge eating disorders often have a distorted view of their bodies, thinking they are much larger than they are. This can lead to severe body dissatisfaction and an intense fear of gaining weight.

As a result, people with binge eating disorders may restrict their food intake or engage in purging behaviors like vomiting or excessive exercise. But this only leads to more bingeing, creating a vicious cycle. If you’re struggling with binge eating, it’s important to understand that it’s not really about the food. It’s about your relationship with your body and how you see yourself.


When people diet, they restrict their food intake in an attempt to lose weight. However, this can sometimes have the opposite effect, leading to binge eating disorder. Many people turn to diets in an attempt to lose weight.

However, dieting can lead to binge eating disorders. Dieting can cause a person to become obsessed with food and their weight. This can lead to a person overeating or eating large amounts of food in a short period.

Emotional Trauma

Common triggers for binge eating include emotional trauma, psychological stress, and social situations. When you experience any of these stressors, your brain goes into protection mode and releases chemicals that make you feel temporarily better.

These chemicals can cause you to overeat because it gives you a feeling of pleasure or relief from pain or discomfort. This increased appetite can lead to binging during an episode of binge eating disorder. In time, your brain adjusts to high levels of these natural chemicals and returns to normal.

Family History

There’s no one cause of binge eating disorder, but family history may play a role. If you have a parent or sibling with the condition, you’re more likely to develop it yourself. That said, not everyone with a family history of binge eating will end up with the disorder.

And you can develop a binge eating disorder even if no one in your family has it. So, while family history may be a factor, it’s not the only thing that plays a role in the development of this disorder.


There’s no one answer to this question, as the causes of binge eating disorder are likely complex and multi-dimensional. However, research suggests that genetics may play a role in predisposing certain individuals to the disorder.

For example, studies have found that people with first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, or children) diagnosed with binge eating disorder are more likely to develop it themselves.

Genetic studies have identified several specific genes associated with increased risk for binge eating disorder. While more research is needed to understand how these genes contribute to the development of the disorder, it’s clear that genetics plays at least some role in its etiology.

Psychological Conditions

Binge eating disorder is a serious psychological condition that can cause various physical and mental health problems. It is characterized by periods of overeating, often in secret, followed by feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment.

It is often associated with other psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Treatment for binge eating disorder typically includes a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.

How Is Binge Eating Diagnosed?

A binge is defined as eating an excessive amount of food in a short time and feeling out of control. This might sound like something we’ve all done at one point or another, but it’s a regular occurrence for someone with a binge eating disorder (BED).

People with BED often eat even when they’re not hungry and continue eating until they feel uncomfortably full. They may feel ashamed or embarrassed afterward and try compensating for it by restricting their food intake or purging. Others use binging as a way to cope with negative emotions or stress.

Diagnosing binge eating disorder can be tricky because the symptoms are similar to those of other disorders, such as bulimia nervosa. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5) includes criteria that doctors use to help diagnose the condition:

A person must meet three out of five criteria within a specified period; this could be three months, six months, or a year. There are also specific rules about what each criterion should entail. For example, one criterion for binge eating disorder is eating more rapidly than normal.

Another criterion is eating until feeling uncomfortably full. Someone who doesn’t do either of these two things doesn’t have a binge eating disorder. There’s also a set of restrictions that come with diagnoses, including weight restoration if needed and doctor supervision to treat any related health problems.

A diagnosis may come after trying different treatment methods without success or noticing behaviors persist despite efforts to stop them. In some cases, the individual might need a referral from their primary care physician before being seen by a mental health professional specializing in behavioral health issues.

The Different Types of Binge Eating Disorders

Binge eating disorder, also known as compulsive overeating, is a type of eating disorder. People with binge eating disorders eat large amounts of food in a short period and feel that they cannot control their eating. There are different types of binge eating disorders. They include:

Deprivation Binge

A deprivation binge is when someone with an eating disorder tries to compensate for lost time by overeating. This can happen after a period of dieting or restrictive eating or when someone feels deprived of food.

Deprivation binges usually involve large amounts of high-calorie foods and can last for hours or even days. They often end up feeling out of control, ashamed, and guilty.

Habit Binge

Habitual pre-binge cues trigger the habit of binge eating. It involves a stimulus-response pattern. If we typically binge at night while watching TV alone on the couch, then simply being on the couch alone becomes a powerful subliminal cue to binge. Individuals with habit binge disorder typically feel more guilt than those with other forms of binge eating orders.

Hunger Binge

Hunger binge eating is often triggered by dieting, calorie restriction, or prolonged fasting. Sometimes people intentionally undereat to lose weight or even to make up for a prior binge. Occasionally, they under-fuel because they are busy or did not feel particularly hungry during the day. By the end of the day, running on fumes can trigger their biological hunger into overdrive, resulting in uncontrolled eating.

Opportunity Binge

Binge opportunities arise when a person has access to privacy and has time to themselves to binge. People may feel certain foods are off-limits in public or around certain people, so they want to indulge when they can “get away with it” and hide their behavior from others.

Pleasure Binge

Pleasure binge eating is triggered by the urge to satisfy a craving for stimulation or reward. The intention to eat one slice of pizza may be to stop at one piece, but the sense of pleasure you get from the first few bites often leads you to eat half the pizza (or more).

Stress Binge

This type of binge eating often leads to what is thought of as emotional eating or stress eating. You may turn to a binge at the end of the day as a form of self-reward or self-numbing after a long day or as a method of edging off stress by grazing during the day.

Vengeful Binge

The desire to self-punish can fuel vengeful binge eating. This type of eating may be in response to anger directed at oneself, as excessive eating is used to lash out. People may also use this binge to release anger toward others or towards weight loss.

Signs That You or A Loved One May Be Struggling from Binge Eating Disorder

If you or a loved one have been eating large amounts of food in a short period or feel like you can’t control your eating habits, it’s possible that you’re struggling with a binge eating disorder. Here are some other signs to look out for:

  • Eating even when you are not hungry
  • Eating in seclusion out of embarrassment
  • Eating very fast
  • Feeling sad, guilty, disgusted, and angry after eating
  • Feeling uncomfortably full after meals
  • Uncontrolled feelings that your eating habits are out of control

Not everyone who struggles with binge eating disorder will exhibit all of these symptoms. Many people who suffer from binge eating disorder exhibit only a few. If you or a loved one exhibits some of these signs and you think they may be struggling with a binge eating disorder, it’s important to seek professional help immediately. It can be incredibly difficult to discuss these issues without professional support but seeking treatment is critical for recovery. The earlier treatment begins, research shows recovery rates are increased by over 50%.

Complications Caused by Binge Eating

Binge eating disorders can cause a variety of complications, both physical and mental. Physically, binge eating can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, and type II diabetes. It can also lead to problems with digestion, fertility, and sleep.

Mentally, binge eating disorder can cause anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. It can also lead to social isolation and relationship problems. Furthermore, it may contribute to other psychiatric disorders like addiction or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Ultimately, binge eating disorder affects the person suffering from it and those around them.

How To Know When to Seek Help

If you’re eating large amounts of food in a short time, feeling out of control while doing so, and then experiencing feelings of shame or guilt afterward, you may suffer from a binge eating disorder. Other signs include eating when you’re not hungry, hiding food wrappers or other evidence of bingeing, and feeling disgusted with yourself afterward.

Many overweight people feel ashamed of their eating habits, but if you’re hiding your bingeing or struggling with uncontrollable food cravings, it may be time to get help. Seek help immediately by finding an eating disorder specialist in your area today!

Treatment Options for Binge Eating Disorders

There are a variety of treatment options available for those struggling with binge eating disorder. These include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can be used to treat binge eating disorders. CBT focuses on changing the negative thoughts and behaviors contributing to binge eating. It can help you learn how to cope with stressful situations without turning to food.

CBT can also help you develop healthy eating habits and a positive body image. If you are considering CBT for your binge eating disorder, it is important to find a therapist who is experienced in treating this condition. CBT may not be right for everyone, but it is an effective treatment for many people with binge eating disorders.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on helping people change unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns. DBT is an effective treatment for binge eating disorder.

DBT techniques have been used successfully to treat several other mental health conditions, including binge eating disorders. Focusing on creating balance and achieving stability in an individual’s life, DBT helps people suffering from binge eating disorders to control their emotions better.

Based on an identified core emotion and thought pattern that typically leads to binge eating episodes (e.g., If I feel sad, I need comfort food), therapist-assisted exercises teach skills aimed at managing negative feelings without engaging in bingeing or purging behaviors.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy

Recurrent episodes of binge eating characterize binge eating disorder (BED). Binge-eating episodes are associated with feelings of shame, guilt, and powerlessness. Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a type of therapy that is effective in treating binge eating disorders.

IPT focuses on the relationships between the individual and their social environment. IPT aims to help individuals develop healthier coping skills and overall functioning. A key component of this type of therapy is helping the individual identify ways they have tried to deal with difficult emotions or stressors before turning to food for comfort.

Once this information has been identified, these strategies can be used as alternatives when stressful situations arise to prevent an episode.


A few different types of medications can be used to treat binge eating disorders. These include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and antipsychotic medications. Antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed type of medication for binge eating disorders.

They can help to improve mood and reduce the urge to binge eat. Anti-anxiety medications can help to reduce anxiety and stress, which can also trigger binge eating episodes. And finally, antipsychotic medications can be used to treat any underlying mental health conditions contributing to the disorder.

Nutrition Therapy

Binge eating disorder is a serious eating disorder that can have devastating consequences on your health. If you think you may be suffering from a binge eating disorder, it’s important to seek professional help. Nutrition therapy can be an effective treatment for binge eating disorders.

Treatment focuses on eating habits and feelings associated with food cravings. The goal of nutrition therapy is to identify food triggers and create a plan for handling these cravings without binging or purging. There are three different types of nutrition therapy:

  • Nutrition counseling: Meetings with a counselor who will address all aspects of the individual’s eating habits, including thoughts about food and weight.
  • Educational group sessions: Meetings with a counselor where people talk about their problems in front of others who share similar struggles.
  • Self-help groups: Group meetings where people with similar disorders learn how to overcome them together through peer support.

How Defining Wellness Can Help Those Struggling with A Binge Eating Disorder

If you or someone you know has been struggling with overeating or binge eating, it’s important to understand that help is available. Addiction treatment facilities like Defining Wellness can provide comprehensive care for those struggling with an eating disorder.

Various programs are available at Defining Wellness to help with eating disorders, including residential rehab programs that can offer more intensive treatment. Some people may also be prescribed medications for co-occurring mental health disorders like depression or anxiety; however, many find these drugs can cause unpleasant side effects. You may benefit from different treatment options depending on your symptoms and health history.

When looking for help for a binge eating disorder, you should consider certain considerations when choosing a treatment facility: How will they address my psychological and substance abuse problems? Will I have an individualized treatment plan tailored to my needs, or will I just be shuffled through in a standard process? What type of follow-up will be offered after discharge?

Ultimately, the most important consideration when seeking addiction treatment is how well the facility handles relapse prevention.

Take Control and Seek Treatment

Binge eating disorder is a serious condition that can lead to long-term health complications. If you think you or someone you know may have a binge eating disorder, it’s important to seek professional help.

Treatment for binge eating disorder often includes therapy and/or medication. With treatment, people with binge eating disorders can learn how to cope with their condition and make healthy choices. The sooner they get help, the better their chance of living a full life.

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Reviewed By:

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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