What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) has been around for a long time, but has only recently been recognized by the psychiatric community. As you can probably guess from the title, it is primarily characterized by recurrent episodes of binging - eating large amounts of food in relatively short amounts of time. A person may plan to binge and hit the grocery store specifically for that purpose, or they may feel suddenly overtaken and go through the food in the house. During a binge, people often feel trance-like and out of control. These episodes must meet at least three of the following criteria as well:

  • Eating much more rapidly than normal
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
  • Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much you are eating
  • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating

It is also a part of the diagnosis that the person does not try to get rid of the calories in any way, which would be associated with bulimia and that the binging causes the person distress. The binges need to happen about once a week for three months in order to qualify for the diagnosis, but there are a great many people who do not meet this threshold but are nevertheless suffering profoundly. If your loved one binges, but not as often as is required for the BED diagnosis, they might qualify for Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder as a diagnosis.

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States, affecting 3.5% of women and 2% of men. For women, it is more common in early adulthood as the pressures of career and family mount. Men are more likely to suffer BED during midlife. BED is extremely undertreated, with more cases than bulimia and anorexia combined but less than 3% of sufferers getting active treatment. Approximately 1/3 of people with BED have a weight within the “healthy” range.

Look over this list of other behaviors that are frequently associated with binging, keeping in mind that BED is a secretive condition; just because you haven’t noticed something doesn’t mean it isn’t happening:

Common Behaviors Associated with Binging Eating Disorder:

  • Hoarding food

  • Hiding food
  • Stealing food
  • Large grocery bills or missing money
  • Hiding food empty containers
  • Lying about food
  • Frequent dieting, often without weight loss
  • Eating in secret
  • Shame, disgust, or self-loathing related to food

If you suspect that you or a loved one might be suffering from binge eating disorder, contact an eating disorders therapist to discuss a treatment.  

Binge eating disorder is the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder, effecting 2.8 million people in the United States.

Binge eating disorder is the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder, effecting 2.8 million people in the United States.