What is Binge Eating Disorder?

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What is Binge Eating Disorder?

February 25, 2021

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is one of the lesser understood eating disorders, but it is actually the most common eating disorder in the United States, affecting 3.5% of women and 2% of men. Binge Eating Disorder is different from a simple tendency to overeat because it goes further, often involving feelings of shame or guilt, a loss of control when eating, or a fear of eating in public.

BED is treatable with the help of a registered dietitian and/or therapist. Your dietitian will help with education about the disorder, nutrition counseling, and understanding the emotional connection you might have with food. A therapist can help provide further support and help you explore and work more deeply on the emotional issues you are experiencing.

Binge Eating Disorder is also the most recently officially recognized eating disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. As of May 2013, it is now acknowledged as a diagnosable eating disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), a volume of work that defines, classifies, and establishes methods of treatment for all recognized psychiatric diagnoses.

Some key features of Binge Eating Disorder:

    1.Regular binge eating “episodes” defined by:

    • Eating more in a given time period than would be considered normal in similar circumstances
    • Eating with a lack of control: inability to stop eating, or to control how much you are eating

    2. Three or more of the following:

    • Eating faster than normal
    • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
    • Eating large amounts of food even when you’re not hungry
    • Eating alone due to embarrassment about how you eat
    • Feelings of depression, guilt, or self-disgust

    3. Distress due to binge eating

    4. Frequency: bingeing episodes at least once per week over 3 months

    5. Absence of typical co-occurring unhealthy behaviors (such as purging)

Binge Eating Disorder can be diagnosed at every weight. It might be short-lived, or it can persist over the course of years if left untreated. There are a number of possible physical and psychological health consequences that can result from living with an eating disorder, so if you believe you or someone you know is showing signs of an eating disorder, it is important to seek help as soon as possible.

People who are living with BED tend to be good at hiding their disorder, since bingeing is often done in secret. Some signs to look out for if you suspect a loved one is struggling are:

  1. Evidence of large amounts of food being consumed without explanation (wrappers and empty containers or food that has gone missing)
  2. They may appear uncomfortable eating in front of others
  3. Participation in fad diets or cutting out entire food groups (no sugar, no carbs, etc.)
  4. Fear of eating in public
  5. Hoarding of food in strange places
  6. Creating schedules or routines around binge eating episodes
  7. Withdrawal from friends or activities
  8. Frequently on some kind of diet
  9. Extreme concern with body weight, shape, and appearance
  10. Disruption of normal eating behaviors (eats sporadically throughout the day with no set time for meals, eating a small amount of food at normal meal times)
  11. Prefers to eat alone
  12. Fluctuations in weight
  13. Feelings of self disgust, depression, or low self-esteem
  14. Stomach cramps/indigestion
  15. Difficulty concentrating

We can help if you or someone you love is struggling with BED. Reach out to book an appointment or read more about our eating disorder services.


Graphic for Pinterest of binge eating, when looking for eating disorder treatment Hinsdale.

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