Binge Eating Disorder – Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

We all overeat from time to time, but if you regularly fill while feeling out of control and unable to stop, you may be suffering from a binge eating disorder; you can eat to being uncomfortable, then be plagued with feelings. Guilt, shame, depression, beating yourself up over your lack of self-control, or worrying about what binge eating can do to your body. As helpless as you may feel about your eating disorder, it is essential to know that this type of disorder is treatable; you can learn to break the binge cycle, develop a healthier relationship with food, and feel good about yourself again.

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

It is an eating disorder characterized by frequent and recurrent binge episodes with associated adverse psychological and social problems but no subsequent purging episodes (e.g., vomiting). In other words, it is a disease in which people experience a loss of control and eat large amounts of food regularly. It can affect anyone of any age, gender, or background.

A recently described condition was required to distinguish binge eating similar to those seen in bulimia nervosa but without a characteristic purge. People diagnosed with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder exhibit similar patterns of compulsive overeating, neurobiological characteristics of dysfunctional cognitive control, food addiction, and biological and environmental risk factors. Some consider it a milder version of bulimia and that the conditions are on the same spectrum.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating is one of the most prevalent eating disorders among adults—however, less media coverage and research on the disorder than on anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

What are the symptoms of binge eating disorder?

It is characterized by repeated episodes of uncontrolled bingeing and feelings of extreme shame and distress. It usually begins in the late teens to early twenties, although it can occur at any age. It is a chronic disease and can last for many years.

Like other eating disorders, it is more common in women than men. However, it is the most common type among men. An episode of binge eating is characterized by eating more significant than average amounts of food in a relatively short period; this behavior is accompanied by feelings of distress and lack of control.

For a doctor to diagnose it, the following symptoms must be present:

  • Eating much faster than expected.
  • Eating until uncomfortably full.
  • Eat large amounts without feeling hungry.
  • Eating alone due to feelings of shame.
  • Feelings of guilt or disgust with oneself.
  • Subjective loss of control over how much or what to eat.

People often experience extreme unhappiness and distress due to their overeating, body shape, and weight; However, some may occasionally overeat, such as at Thanksgiving or a party, but this does not mean they have a binge eating disorder, despite having experienced any of the symptoms listed above.

To be diagnosed, people must have had at least one binge episode per week for three months. Severity ranges from mild, characterized by one to three binge episodes per week, to extreme, which is characterized by 14 or more episodes per week.

Another essential feature is the absence of inappropriate compensatory behaviors; this means that, unlike bulimia, a person with this disorder does not vomit, take laxatives or exercise excessively to “compensate” for a binge episode.

What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?

The causes are not well understood, but it is likely due to a variety of risk factors:

Genetics:  People with this problem may have an increased sensitivity to dopamine, responsible for feelings of reward and pleasure. There is strong evidence that the disorder is inherited.

Gender: It is more common in women than in men. In the US, 3.6% of women experience it at some point in their lives, compared to 2.0% of men; this may be due to underlying biological factors.

Changes in the brain: There are indications that people with binge eating disorder may have differences in the brain’s structure that result in elevated responses to food and less self-control.

Body size: Nearly 50% of people with the condition are obese, and 25-50% of patients seeking weight loss surgery meet the criteria. Weight problems can be both a cause and a consequence of the disorder.

Body image:  You can have a very negative body image; body dissatisfaction, diet, and overeating contribute to the development of the disorder.

Binge eating:  Those affected often report a history of binge eating as the first symptom of the disorder, including childhood and adolescence.

Emotional trauma:  Life stressors such as abuse, death, separation from a family member, or a car accident are risk factors, and child bullying due to weight can also contribute.

Other Psychological Conditions:  Nearly 80% of people who binge have at least one other psychological disorder, such as phobiasdepressionpost-traumatic stress disorderbipolar disorderanxiety, or substance abuse.

An episode of binge eating can be triggered by stress, diet, negative feelings related to body weight or body shape, availability of food, or boredom.

What are the treatments for binge eating disorder?

Therapy depends on the causes and severity of the disease and individual goals. Treatment can be directed at binge eating, excess weight, body image, mental health problems, or combination.

Therapy options include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, dialectical behavior therapy, weight loss therapy, and medications; these can be carried out on a one-to-one basis, in a group setting, or a self-help format. For some people, only one type of therapy is required, while others may need to try different combinations until they find the right fit.

A medical or mental health professional will be able to advise you on the most appropriate therapy for you.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on analyzing the relationship between negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to food, body shape, and weight. Once the causes of negative emotions and patterns have been identified, strategies can be developed to help people change them.

Specific interventions include:

  • Goal setting.
  • Self-control.
  • Achieving regular eating patterns.
  • Changing thoughts about self and weight.
  • Promoting healthy weight management habits.

Psicoterapia interpersonal

Interpersonal psychotherapy is based on the idea that bingeing is a coping mechanism for unresolved personal problems, such as grief, relationship conflicts, significant life changes, or underlying social issues. The goal is to identify the specific problem related to negative eating behavior, acknowledge it, and then make constructive changes over 12-16 weeks.

Therapy can be in a group or individual format with a trained therapist and can sometimes be combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy. There is strong evidence that this type of therapy has positive effects both in the short and long term in reducing binge-eating behavior. It can be particularly effective for people with more severe forms of bingeing and those with low self-esteem.

Dialectical behavior therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy believes that overeating is an emotional reaction to negative experiences that the person has no other way to face; it teaches people to regulate their emotional responses to negative situations they may face in daily life without bingeing.

The four key treatment areas are mindfulness, tolerance for distress, regulation of emotions, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Weight loss therapy

Behavioral weight loss therapy aims to help people lose weight, reducing binge-eating behavior by improving self-esteem and body image. The intention is to make gradual, healthy lifestyle changes to diet and exercise and monitor food intake and food ideas throughout the day. A weight loss of about 1 pound (half a kilogram) per week is expected.

Although weight loss therapy can help improve body image and reduce weight and the health risks associated with obesity, it is not as effective as the therapies mentioned above.

As with regular weight loss treatment for obesity, this therapy has been shown to help people achieve moderate weight loss in the short term. However, it can still be a good option for people who have not been successful with other therapies or are primarily interested in losing weight.


Various medications have been found to treat binges, and they are often cheaper and faster than traditional therapy. However, there are no current medications as effective in treating binge eating disorders as behavioral therapies.

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

Research has found that drugs have an advantage over a placebo for the short-term reduction of binges; they are 48.7% effective. While placebos are 28.5% effective, they can also reduce appetite obsessions, compulsions, and symptoms of depression.

Although these effects look promising, most studies have only been conducted for short periods, so data on long-term effects are still needed. Additionally, treatment side effects can include headaches, stomach problems, sleep disturbances, increased blood pressure, and anxiety; many people have other mental health conditions, so they may also receive additional medications to treat them.

How To Stop Binge Eating by Yourself – Helpful Strategies.

The first step in avoiding bingeing is talking to a medical professional. This person can help diagnose you properly, determine the severity of your illness, and recommend the most appropriate treatment. In general, the most effective treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy, as mentioned in the previous point, but there are a variety of treatments.

Regardless of the treatment strategy you use, it is also essential to make healthy lifestyle and diet decisions. Here is some additional valuable technique that you can implement yourself:

Keep a food and mood diary: Identifying your triggers is an essential step in learning to control your compulsive urges.

Practice mindfulness: This can help increase awareness of your compulsive triggers, all while helping you improve self-control and maintain self-acceptance.

Find someone to talk to:  It’s essential to have support, whether it’s through your partner, family, friend, bingeing support groups, or online.

Choose healthy foods:  A diet that contains foods rich in protein and healthy fats, regular meals, and whole foods with lots of fruits and vegetables will keep you full and provide you with the nutrients you need.

Start exercising:  Exercise can help improve weight loss, body image, and mood and anxiety symptoms.

Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep is associated with higher calorie intake and irregular eating patterns; make sure you get at least seven to eight hours of sound sleep per night.

Can Binge Eating Disorder Be Prevented?

Teach adolescents and adults to resist societal pressure to be thin, understand what determines body weight, the adverse effects of eating disorders, and promote good self-esteem, stress management, weight management, and acceptance of your weight. The body helps prevent eating disorders.

Educating adults in young people’s lives on how to influence children regarding healthy eating habits, exercise positively, and body image has also been a valuable component in preventing binge eating disorders. In addition to parents, teachers, and other school personnel, coaches, pediatricians, and other primary care physicians may be included.

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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.

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