Binge eating is an eating disorder in which a person regularly eats unusually large amounts of food. During binge eating, the person also feels a loss of control and is not able to stop eating.
The exact cause of binge eating is unknown. Things that may lead to this disorder include:
In the U.S., binge eating is the most common eating disorder. More women than men have it. Women are affected as young adults while men are affected in middle age.
A person with binge eating disorder:
About two thirds of persons who have binge eating disorder are obese.
Binge eating may occur on its own or with another eating disorder, such as bulimia. People with bulimia eat large amounts of high-calorie foods, often in secret. After this binge eating, they often force themselves to vomit or take laxatives, or exercise vigorously.
The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your eating patterns and symptoms.
Blood tests may be done.
The overall goals of treatment are to help you:
Eating disorders such as binge eating are often treated with psychological and nutrition counseling.
Psychological counseling is also called talk therapy. It involves talking with a mental health provider, or therapist, who understands the problems of persons who binge eat. The therapist helps you recognize the feelings and thoughts that cause you to binge eat. Then the therapist teaches you how to change these into helpful thoughts and healthy actions.
Nutrition counseling is also important for recovery. It helps you develop structured meal plans and healthy eating and weight management goals.
The health care provider may prescribe antidepressants if you are anxious or depressed. Medicines to help with weight loss may also be prescribed.
The stress of illness can be eased by joining a support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.
Binge eating is a treatable disorder. Long-term talk therapy seems to help the most.
With binge eating, a person often eats unhealthy foods that are high in sugar and fat and low in nutrients and protein. This can lead to health problems such as high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, or gallbladder disease.
Other possible health problems may include:
Call your health care provider if you think you might have a pattern of binge eating or bulimia.
Reviewed By: Timothy Rogge, MD, Medical Director, Family Medical Psychiatry Center, Kirkland, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.