Binge Eating Disorder: Symptoms and How to Stop

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a chronic disease that can last for many years. It can be described as repeated episodes of uncontrolled binge eating and feelings of extreme shame and misery.

Binge eating is more common in women than men, and it can occur at any age, but it usually begins in the late teens to early twenties.

When a person binge eat, they consume larger than normal amounts of food in short period of time.

Symptoms of Binge Eating

Some known symptoms of binge eating include:

  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Eating quickly than normal
  • Eating large meals without feeling hungry
  • Eating alone due to feelings of shame
  • Feelings of guilt or disgust with oneself

People who binge eat often feel extremely unhappy about their body shape, weight, and overeating habit.

The severity of binge eating ranges from mild (one to three binge eating episodes per week), to extreme (14 or more episodes per week). People must have had at least one binge eating episode per week for at least three months.

Causes Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is likely to be caused by a variety of risk factors such as:

  • Gender: BED is more common in women than men, this may be due to basic biological factors
  • Body size: Almost 50% of people with BED are obese or overweight. Weight problems may be both a cause and consequence of the disorder
  • Genetics: There is evidence that BED is inherited. People with BED may have increased sensitivity to dopamine, which is responsible for feelings of reward and pleasure.
  • Changes in the brain: People with BED may have changes in brain structure that leads to an increased response to food and less self-control
  • Body image: People with BED have a very negative body image. Body displeasure, dieting and overeating contribute to the development of the disorder.
  • Emotional trauma: Traumatic life events, such as emotional abuse, death, separation from a family member or a car accident, have been found to be risk factors. Childhood bullying due to weight may also contribute to the eating disorder.
  • Other psychological conditions: Most people with BED have at least one other psychological disorder, such as depression, anxiety, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, or bipolar disorder.

Health Risks of Binge Eating Disorder

BED is associated with numerous physical, emotional and social health risks. Binge eating disorder is also an independent risk factor for gaining weight and becoming obese because of the increased calorie intake.

Obesity increases the chances of a person developing stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Other health risks associated with BED include sleep problems, chronic pain conditions, asthma and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Women with BED stands the risk of having issues with fertility and complications during pregnancy.

Treatment Options for Binge Eating Disorder

Therapy for BED depends on the causes and severity of the disease.

Treatment may target binge eating behaviors, excess weight, body image, mental health issues or a combination of these.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for BED examines the relationships between negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors related to eating, body shape and weight.

Once the causes of negative emotions and patterns have been identified, approaches can be developed to help people change them.

Weight Loss Therapy

Behavioral weight loss therapy helps people lose weight, thereby improving self-esteem and body image. This therapy aims to make gradual healthy lifestyle changes in diet and exercise and monitor food consumption and thoughts about food throughout the day. Weight loss of about 1 pound (half a kilogram) per week is expected.


Several medications have been found to treat binge eating and are often cheaper and faster than opting for traditional therapy. However, behavioral therapies is one effective method used to address binge eating disorder.

Available treatments include antidepressants, antiepileptic drugs like topiramate and drugs traditionally used for hyperactive disorders, such as lisdexamfetamine.

For a short-term treatment of binge eating, medications do have an advantage over a placebo. Research shows that medications are 48.7% effective, while placebos are 28.5% effective at reducing binge eating.

Side effects of treatment may include sleep disturbances, headaches, stomach problems, anxiety, and increased blood pressure.

Image source: istockphoto

Disclaimer: The content provided on is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical doctor or healthcare professional.

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