Understanding Binge Eating Disorder

Updated: Jul 9, 2018

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is commonly known as compulsive overeating, or consuming abnormal amounts of food while feeling unable to stop and having a loss of control.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

In Binge Eating Disorder eating episodes are typically classified as occurring on average a minimum of twice per week for a duration of six months. BED was first explained in 1959 by Albert Stunkard, a psychiatrist and researcher, as Night Eating Syndrome (NES). The term Binge Eating Disorder was created to define similar binge eating behavior without the nocturnal aspect.


Though binge eating disorder can occur in men and women of normal weight, it often leads to the development of unwanted weight gain or obesity, which can indirectly reinforce further compulsive eating. Men and women suffering with binge eating disorder struggle with emotions of disgust and guilt and often have a related co-morbidity, such as depression or anxiety. The negative feelings that usually accompany binge eating often lead him or her to continue to use food to cope; thus creating a vicious cycle. Managed eating disorder treatments are extremely important.


Causes of Binge Eating Disorder

While the exact cause of binge eating disorder is unknown, there are a variety of factors that are thought to influence the development of this disorder. These factors are:

  • Biological: Biological abnormalities, such as hormonal irregularities or genetic mutations, may be associated with compulsive eating and food addiction.

  • Psychological: A strong correlation has been established between depression and binge eating. Body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and difficulty coping with feelings can also contribute to binge eating disorder.

  • Social and Cultural: Traumatic situations, such as a history of sexual abuse, can increase the risk of binge eating. Social pressures to be thin, which are typically influenced through media, can trigger emotional eating. Persons subject to critical comments about their bodies or weight may be especially vulnerable to binge eating disorder.

Signs & Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

As individuals suffering with binge eating disorder experience embarrassment or shame about their eating habits, symptoms may often be hidden. The following are some behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder:

  • Continually eating even when full

  • Inability to stop eating or control what is eaten

  • Stockpiling food to consume secretly at a later time

  • Eating normally in the presence of others but gorging when isolated

  • Experiencing feelings of stress or anxiety that can only be relieved by eating

  • Feelings of numbness or lack of sensation while bingeing

  • Never experiencing satiation: the state of being satisfied, no matter the amount of food consumed

The consequences of binge eating disorder involve many physical, social, and emotional difficulties. Some of these complications are:

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Type 2 Diabetes

  • Insomnia or sleep apnea

  • Hypertension

  • Gallbladder disease

  • Muscle and/or joint pain

  • Gastrointestinal difficulties

  • Depression and/or anxiety


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