Chew on This: Symptoms of Binge-Eating Disorder

Binge eating is when you eat a large amount of food in a short amount of time and feel that you can’t control what or how much you are eating. If you binge eat regularly—at least once a week for 3 months, you may have binge eating disorder.

If you have binge eating disorder, you may be very upset by your binge eating. You also may feel ashamed and try to hide your problem. Even your close friends and family members may not know you binge eat.

Unlike people with binge eating disorder, people who have bulimia nervosa try to prevent weight gain after binge eating by vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, fasting, or exercising too much.

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. About 3.5 percent of adult women and 2 percent of adult men have binge eating disorder. For men, binge eating disorder is most common in midlife, between the ages of 45 to 59.

For women, binge eating disorder most commonly starts in early adulthood, between the ages of 18 and 29. About 1.6 percent of teenagers are affected. A much larger number of adults and children have episodes of binge eating or loss-of-control eating, but the episodes do not occur frequently enough to meet the criteria for binge eating disorder.

Binge eating disorder affects African Americans as often as whites. More research is needed on how often binge eating disorder affects people in other racial and ethnic groups.

Binge eating disorder can occur in people of average body weight but is more common in people with obesity, particularly severe obesity. However, it is important to note that most people with obesity do not have binge eating disorder.

Painful childhood experiences—such as family problems and critical comments about your shape, weight, or eating—also are associated with developing binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder also runs in families, and there may be a genetic component as well.

Binge eating disorder may lead to weight gain and health problems related to obesity. Overweight and obesity are associated with many health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. People with binge eating disorder may also have mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. Some people with binge eating disorder also have problems with their digestive system, or joint and muscle pain.

If you have binge eating disorder, you may:

1. Eat a large amount of food in a short amount of time; for example, within 2 hours

2. Feel you lack control over your eating; for example, you cannot stop eating or control what or how much you are eating

3. Eat more quickly than usual during binge episodes

4. Eat until you feel uncomfortably full

5. Eat large amounts of food even when you are not hungry

6. Eat alone because you are embarrassed about the amount of food you eat

7. Feel disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating

If you think that you or someone close to you may have binge eating disorder, share your concerns with a health care provider. He or she can connect you to helpful sources of care.

No one knows for sure what causes binge eating disorder. Like other eating disorders, binge eating disorder may result from a mix of factors related to your genes, your thoughts and feelings, and social issues. Binge eating disorder has been linked to depression and anxiety.

For some people, dieting in unhealthy ways—such as skipping meals, not eating enough food, or avoiding certain kinds of food—may contribute to binge eating.

Talk to your doctor if you think you have binge eating disorder. Ask him or her to refer you to a mental health professional in your area. A specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional, may be able to help you choose the best treatment for you.

Source: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases