According to research, over 28.8 million Americans may experience an eating disorder in their lifetime. One eating disorder out of many is binge eating disorder, a psychological diagnosis similar to bulimia. Binge eating disorder affects people of all genders and backgrounds and involves specific binge eating disorder symptoms, characteristics, and associated risk factors that can signal the need for professional support. Understanding this condition can help you understand whether it is occurring for you or someone you love.
What Are The Diagnostic Criteria For Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating disorder is a mental health condition that was officialized in May of 2013 with the publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). In the DSM-5, the criteria for binge eating disorder include the following:
- Recurrent and persistent episodes of binge eating, or binge episodes, involving three or more of the following behaviors:
- Eating much more rapidly than normal
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
- Eating alone due to embarrassment about the quantity of food eaten
- Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or guilty after eating
- Marked distress regarding binge eating
- Absence of frequent compensatory behaviors
Before 2013, individuals with these symptoms may have received a diagnosis of an eating disorder not otherwise specified (ED-NOS). However, research showed that binge eating disorder was a significant condition and eating behavior that warranted its specific diagnostic label. With the introduction of the diagnostic label, more individuals could receive therapy and treatment options for their condition.
Although psychologists and doctors assign the official diagnosis of binge eating disorder based on its specific criteria, having one of these symptoms can still be concerning. Many people experience some symptoms of binge eating disorder without meeting the full criteria for the diagnosis. If you read through this list and some symptoms match you or a loved one, consider seeking support. You do not have to have a diagnosis to reach out to a therapist, and over 41.7 million US adults currently see a professional for various concerns.
What Are The Typical Signs And Symptoms Of Binge Eating Disorder?
Those experiencing symptoms of this condition may feel out of control of their behavior or use binge eating as a coping mechanism to cope with painful emotions. They may feel compelled to eat while full, order meals to satisfy a craving or spend significant amounts of money on food.
Binge eating disorder is broadly classified as an eating disorder, alongside anorexia and bulimia. All three include disordered eating behaviors, and they may include body image issues and body dysmorphia, a sense of hatred or discomfort toward one’s body. However, each eating disorder has different criteria. For example, anorexia involves restriction to eating and sometimes exercising excessively, whereas binge eating disorder involves eating past one’s limit. Although bulimia can also involve binging behaviors, it is classified by purging behaviors, involving the self-induction of vomiting or bowel movements to quickly rid the body of food.
If you are unsure whether you are experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) offers a quick eating disorder screening tool. However, note that online screening quizzes are meant for educational purposes and are not a replacement for a diagnosis from a licensed mental health professional or doctor.
What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating disorder can manifest via a combination of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors. Studies have found that there may be genes associated with binge eating patterns. Often, however, eating disorders occur due to environmental factors, such as traumatic events, family history, societal pressure, and other concerns. One study found that social media use is often associated with eating disorder onset.
With binge eating disorder, the desire to binge eat may come from a desire to cope with stressful emotions. While eating, an individual may feel a sense of calm, happiness, or peace, making it difficult to control eating. They might order food online to reduce stress or eat when they watch a TV show or movie. People might also plan for a binge. However, the positive effects of eating may only be felt in the moment, and long-term shame, guilt, or fear may occur after they stop eating. For some, binge eating disorder causes financial strain.
What Characteristics Are Associated With Binge Eating Disorder?
Studies have found that binge eating disorder is most common in late teens or early adulthood. It has been reported in younger children and older adults, but less frequently. Although eating disorders are often associated with women, men can struggle with these symptoms as well.
Anyone of any gender identity, age, body shape, or background can be affected by binge eating disorder. Approximately 3.5% of women in the US have this disorder, compared to 2% of men. During adolescence, binge eating disorder tends to affect more women than men. More men struggle with these behaviors starting in midlife. No matter what age you are when these symptoms start, seeking support can be essential.
Studies have found that 50% to 75% of those experiencing eating disorders also experience depression. Anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions can be significantly connected to developing and continuing an eating disorder. For example, someone experiencing depression may binge eat to cope with the symptoms. Their symptoms may worsen as a result, as they might experience shame or the physical impact of eating more than the body can handle.
What Are The Risks Of Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating is not necessarily physically dangerous in every case. However, it can have mental health consequences and is often considered risky. Note that anyone of any weight, even those at a normal weight, can live with this condition, and weight is not a deciding factor in the diagnostic criteria of any eating disorder.
To reduce stigmas about weight, eating, and health, it can be essential to challenge the myths that a higher weight is necessary for a binge eating diagnosis and that a lower rate is necessary for an anorexia diagnosis. These myths are untrue; individuals with higher weights can have anorexia, whereas those struggling with weight gain may live with binge eating disorder.
There are a few risks associated with binge eating, including the following:
- Heart disease caused by high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels
- Type two diabetes, which can occur at any weight
- Depression or anxiety
- Shame or guilt
- Difficulty breathing
- Gastrointestinal challenges
What Are The Warning Signs Of Binge Eating Disorder?
If you are concerned that you or someone you love is experiencing binge eating disorder, there are a few warning signs to consider. Those living with binge eating disorder may try to hide their behaviors. Hiding eating, eating alone, or ordering significant amounts of food online can be warning signs and a usual occurrence for those living with a binge eating disorder. Evidence someone is hiding their eating may occur in the form of empty food containers and trash. In addition, someone hiding their habits may act defensively when asked about them.
If someone engages in unusual eating behaviors, it does not necessarily mean they have binge eating disorder. But when eating beyond your limit becomes a usual occurrence it crosses into binge eating disorder territory. If you are concerned about someone in your life, try to talk to them and discuss the behaviors you have noticed. Approaching the person at a time when the two of you can have a calm, quiet, and non-judgmental conversation away from other people may create a safe space for them to talk to you.
If you believe you are experiencing binge eating disorder, reaching out for support can be brave. Tell someone you trust, call or text the eating disorder hotline at the beginning of this article, or reach out to a licensed therapist for guidance.
If you feel you are struggling with binge eating, feel shame for your eating habits, or eat to soothe your emotions, you may be experiencing signs of an eating disorder. In these cases, asking for support from a licensed therapist can be beneficial for successful treatment. A therapist can aid in more than eating disorders. They can also target the causes of your eating habits, beliefs, or emotions and support you with other mental health challenges like anxiety or depression.
A therapist can help you learn new ways to cope with these challenges, interact with food, and ensure your mental health. People with binge eating disorder may also benefit from working with a dietician or nutritionist to develop healthier eating patterns or develop a weight loss plan. Ask your therapist if they think a nutritionist would positively influence you.
You can also consider online therapy if you struggle to find a therapist due to barriers like shame, guilt, cost, or lack of providers in your area. People with binge eating disorder may find online therapy more comfortable than in-person settings. Often, the stigma of engaging in disordered eating behaviors may discourage people from seeking support. Through an online platform like BetterHelp, clients can receive discreet support under a nickname and choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions with a licensed eating disorder therapist.
In addition, online therapeutic interventions have shown efficacy in treating binge eating disorders. In one study, a brief internet-based program was accepted and highly appraised by participants experiencing primary symptoms of binge eating disorder. Therapists used cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to work with participants, who showed significant decreases in weekly binge-eating episodes, symptoms of depression, and other psychosocial impairments after the study.
What is a key feature of binge eating disorder?
According to information from the National Institute of Health, a key feature of binge eating disorder (BED) is the common occurrence of consuming large amounts of food within a relatively short time, accompanied by a sense of loss of control.
During these frequent episodes, individuals with BED often experience intense and distressing feelings, such as guilt, shame, and regret. Unlike other eating disorders like bulimia nervosa, individuals with BED typically do not engage in compensatory behaviors like vomiting or excessive exercise following binge episodes. This distinction is vital in diagnosing BED.
These recurrent binge eating episodes can lead to several physical and emotional consequences, including weight gain, obesity, and negative impacts on mental health. BED is often associated with emotional triggers, such as stress or anxiety, and individuals may use food as a way to cope with these emotions.
As the most common eating disorder, BED accounts for almost half of all eating disorder diagnoses and affects millions of individuals worldwide. Recognizing and addressing the signs and symptoms is essential for effectively treating BED. A treatment plan may include interpersonal therapy, support groups, or nutritional counseling to help individuals regain control over their eating behaviors and manage their emotional well-being.
What are the common reasons people binge eat?
People often engage in binge eating for various reasons, and emotional stress is a common trigger. Let's examine the common reasons for binge eating:
- Emotional stress: Many individuals use food as a way to cope with stress, anxiety, sadness, or other emotional challenges. Binge eating may provide temporary relief from these feelings.
- Negative emotions: Feelings of guilt, shame, anger, or frustration can lead to binge eating episodes as individuals seek comfort or distraction from these emotions.
- Dieting and restriction: Strict dieting or food restriction can create a cycle of deprivation, which may eventually lead to overeating and binge episodes where self-control is temporarily lost.
- Social and environmental factors: Social situations, peer pressure, or exposure to abundant food can trigger binge eating, especially in social gatherings or parties.
- Boredom: Binge eating can occur when people have excess free time or when they feel unoccupied, as eating becomes a way to fill the void.
- Habitual behavior: For some, binge eating becomes a habitual response to specific triggers or cues, such as watching TV or returning home after work.
Understanding these common reasons for binge eating is crucial for addressing the underlying causes and developing healthier coping mechanisms. While these common reasons may offer a starting point for understanding the behavior, it is important to also consider individual experiences and triggers for each case of BED.
When a person binges, what does that mean?
When a usual occurrence crosses the line into a binge episode, it typically involves the consumption of excessive amounts of food in a relatively short period of time, accompanied by a sense of loss of control.
Binge episodes often involve consuming vast amounts of food that are usually high in calorie content and fat, such as chips, candy, fast foods, or desserts. The feelings experienced during bingeing can range from pleasure to shame and guilt, depending on the individual. People who binge eat may feel out of control, overwhelmed, or regretful after an episode has occurred.
It is important to note that people with BED usually do not engage in compensatory behaviors like vomiting or excessive exercise following a binge episode, as seen in cases of bulimia nervosa. Instead, individuals often rely on self-soothing behaviors or turn to food for comfort.
Why do people overeat?
Overeating is a behavior that occurs when someone consumes more food than their body needs. It can be triggered by emotional stress, boredom, or social situations and often leads to feelings of guilt, shame, or regret after the episode.
Physical and psychological factors can both play a role in overeating. For example, physical triggers such as hunger or eating-related cues like seeing food advertisements can lead to overeating. Similarly, psychological reasons like stress, anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem can also contribute to overeating episodes.
Certain parts of the brain can also influence overeating. The reward system of the brain is often associated with overeating, as it can cause pleasure-seeking behaviors such as eating too much or too quickly. The hypothalamus and hormones, such as ghrelin and leptin, may also play a role in overeating. When the body senses that it is not getting enough food, it can trigger hunger and cravings. Sometimes, these signals can be misinterpreted, leading to overeating.
In order to treat binge eating disorder, it is important to identify, address, and understand the underlying triggers of the behavior. Many people respond differently when it comes to food and eating habits. Understanding why and how people overeat is an important part of developing healthier eating habits.
In cases where someone has difficulty controlling their overeating, talk therapy or support groups can be beneficial in addressing the underlying causes and managing one's eating behaviors.
Who is most likely to binge eat?
Teens, particularly those who engage in frequent dieting, are among the groups most likely to develop a binge eating problem. Several factors contribute to this vulnerability:
- Body image and peer pressure: Adolescence is a period of significant physical and emotional change. Teens often face pressure to conform to societal beauty standards, which can lead to dissatisfaction with their bodies. Peer pressure and comparisons with others can exacerbate these feelings.
- Dieting culture: Many late teens are exposed to dieting trends and fads, often with the goal of achieving a specific body image. Frequent dieting can create a cycle of deprivation and overeating, triggering binge eating episodes.
- Stress and emotional challenges: Teens experience various stressors, such as academic pressure, relationships, and identity exploration. Binge eating can serve as a coping mechanism to deal with these emotional challenges.
- Hormonal changes: Hormonal fluctuations during adolescence can affect appetite control and emotional stability, potentially contributing to binge eating.
- Family and environmental factors: Family dynamics and environmental influences also play a role. A family history of eating disorders or dysfunctional eating patterns can increase the risk.
Early intervention, open communication, and fostering a healthy body image are essential in addressing binge eating tendencies in teenagers. Encouraging a balanced approach to nutrition and promoting self-acceptance can help mitigate the risks associated with binge eating in this age group.
Why do people binge eat when stressed?
Binge eating, when stressed, is a common response due to its ability to provide temporary emotional relief. People often turn to food as a way to soothe overwhelming feelings such as anxiety, sadness, or frustration. Binge eating can trigger the release of "feel-good" chemicals in the brain, like dopamine, which can briefly alleviate stress.
Additionally, stress can lead to increased levels of cortisol, a hormone that stimulates appetite, particularly for calorie-rich and sugary foods. This hormonal response can further contribute to binge eating tendencies when someone is feeling overwhelmed.
Over time, this behavior can become a habit. Individuals may automatically resort to food as a coping mechanism when faced with stressful situations, creating a learned pattern of behavior.
Despite its temporary relief, binge eating doesn't address the underlying causes of stress and can lead to additional emotional and physical challenges. Developing healthier coping strategies and seeking support from mental health professionals are essential steps in managing stress and reducing reliance on binge eating as a means of coping.
Why do people overeat at night?
People can overeat at night for a variety of reasons:
- Habit: For some, nighttime overeating becomes a habitual behavior, often associated with unwinding and relaxation after a long day.
- Emotional eating: Emotions can play a significant role in BED. Stress, loneliness, boredom, or sadness can trigger nighttime overeating as individuals seek comfort and distraction from their feelings.
- Lack of distraction: The absence of daytime distractions can amplify cravings and promote overeating. In the evening, there are fewer tasks and responsibilities, leaving more time for snacking.
- Social and environmental factors: Evening social gatherings, TV watching, or late-night work can lead to mindless eating. Additionally, the availability of high-calorie snacks at home can contribute to overeating.
- Hormonal factors: Some studies suggest that hunger hormones like ghrelin may be more active in the evening, potentially increasing appetite. The circadian rhythm and changes in metabolism can also influence nighttime cravings.
- Erratic eating patterns: Skipping meals during the day can lead to excessive hunger at night, prompting overeating.
Overcoming nighttime overeating often involves addressing emotional triggers, developing healthier eating habits, and creating an environment that supports mindful eating. Practicing relaxation techniques, setting structured mealtimes, and keeping healthier snacks on hand can reduce the likelihood of excessive nighttime consumption.
What is the psychology of eating too much?
The psychology of eating too much involves a complex interplay of various factors, encompassing both emotional and physiological aspects. Binge eating, in particular, provides insight into this phenomenon.
- Emotional triggers: Many instances of overeating are rooted in emotions. Stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness can lead to emotional eating as a means of coping with difficult feelings. These triggers often result in acts of self-soothing in the short term but can lead to self-loathing and guilt afterward.
- Reward mechanisms: The brain's reward system is engaged during eating, particularly when consuming foods high in sugar and fat. This activity can create a cycle where individuals seek the pleasurable sensations of eating, even in the absence of hunger.
- Habitual behavior: Over time, overeating can become a habit, often tied to specific cues or routines. These habits may be challenging to break, leading to repeated episodes of consuming excessive amounts of food.
- Physiological factors: Hormonal imbalances, such as abnormalities in leptin or ghrelin (hunger hormones), may also contribute to overeating.
- Environmental influences: The availability of high-calorie, highly palatable foods and social pressures to eat can influence eating behavior.
Understanding the psychology behind overeating is essential, particularly when it becomes a pattern that negatively impacts one's physical and emotional well-being. It is crucial to seek professional help to diagnose binge eating disorder and to address the underlying emotional and psychological factors contributing to overeating.
Which disease is caused by overeating?
Overeating can lead to a variety of health issues, including obesity and malnutrition. Additionally, it can increase the risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.
Overeating can also contribute to digestive disorders like gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Eating too much can also cause fatty liver disease.
Binge eating disorder (BED) is a specific mental health condition associated with recurrent episodes of overeating. BED can lead to significant emotional and physical challenges, affecting individuals' relationships, work productivity, and physical health.
It's important to understand that while overeating has the potential for harm, not all instances of overeating are necessarily problematic. Occasional indulging is often a normal part of life, and it can be helpful to occasionally take time to enjoy food without guilt. However, if left unchecked, overeating can become a serious issue with potentially long-term health consequences.
What are the characteristics of binge eating?
Binge eating disorder (BED) typically involves compulsive overeating and feelings of a loss of control. As with other eating disorders, binge eating can cause significant physical and psychological distress.
Common signs and symptoms associated with BED include:
- Eating large amounts of food in short periods of time
- Feeling an inability to stop eating
- Eating until uncomfortably full
- Frequently eating alone or in secret
- Experiencing shame, guilt, and distress related to food consumption
- Feeling powerless to control overeating behaviors
While overeating can lead to significant health issues, an accurate diagnosis of BED requires professional evaluation. Treatment involves a multifaceted approach, with the aim of addressing physical and emotional symptoms related to compulsive eating behaviors. Treatment may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, nutrition counseling, medication management, and support groups.
With appropriate treatment, individuals can learn to recognize and manage the underlying emotional triggers that lead to binge eating, enabling them to make healthier choices and take back control of their lives.
- Previous Article
- Next Article