Updated: May 12
Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the United States. Because it can be life threatening, it’s essential to diagnose it as early as possible. If you’re curious whether your eating habits or those of a loved one are indicative of BED, White Pine Center for Healing, a leading eating disorder treatment center, is here to help.
In this post, we’ll discuss what BED is, talk about its symptoms, and highlight the difference between overeating and binging. Please note the following content is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Call 911 immediately if you have a medical emergency.
What is Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?
Binge eating disorder (BED) is a treatable, yet severe and life-threatening eating disorder/mental health condition in which a person repeatedly consumes large quantities of food. Medical professionals may diagnosis a person with BED if they have:
recurrent episodes of eating immense amounts of food very quickly
feel a loss of control during binges
experience feeling of guilt and shame after binge eating
use unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging, fasting, misuse of laxatives) to counter the binging episode
Medical professionals may diagnose a person with BED if they have episodes of binge eating where they’re:
Binge eating at least once a week for three months
Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating
Eating large amounts of food quickly
Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or guilty after eating
While people with BED can be overweight or obese, they can also be in an average weight range. It’s important to know that this disorder can impact people of all genders, sexes, races, sexual orientations, backgrounds, body types, and education-attainment levels.
Physical Signs of Binge Eating Disorder
If a loved one has BED, they may be skilled at hiding their behavior but may talk about physical symptoms their experiencing. Further, if you suspect you may have BED, there are a variety of signs that could indicate an eating disorder. These include:
Chronic sore throat
Erosion of tooth enamel
Again, it’s a misnomer that all people with BED are overweight. Because a person may follow a binge with a fast or purge, people of all shapes, sizes, and appearances can have the disorder. That said, women and girls who diet are 12 times more likely to binge eat than those who do not. Further, BED typically begins in the late teens or early 20s.
The Difference Between Overeating and Binge Eating?
There are a few differences that can help you determine whether you’re overeating or binge eating. First, determine when and where the overeating is occurring. If it happens during parties, holiday festivities, or events, it may simply be the social situation. People who overeat may eat until they’re uncomfortable because of boredom or because they’re distracted (e.g., eating while watching TV, playing video games). Finally, we may use food to soothe us when we’re sad or overwhelmed.
Conversely, binge eating comes with an intense drive to overeat and is followed by extreme feelings of guilt and shame. A binge is often highly distressing and can make a person feel out of control. Often, the food that a person consumes isn’t even enjoyable, and much of the consumption happens in secret.
If you suspect that you may have BED, seek medical help as soon as possible. It’s critical to speak with your doctor and mental health professional about your symptoms. If you’re seeking help for a loved one, it is essential to have an honest conversation about your concerns for them. Offer to help them find qualified medical care and make an appointment.
What is Included in Treatment?
Treatment for BED helps people address underlying reasons for binge eating. These issues could be caused by stress, body shame, low self-esteem, or repeated diet failures. After speaking with a medical professional, they will likely refer you or a loved one to a nutritionist and/or therapist. Evidence-based therapies for treating BED typically include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Dialectical behavior therapy
These therapies aim to address the underlying reasons that drive or trigger your binge eating, how to prevent future episodes, and how to relate to yourself more compassionately.
Thriving at Your Own Size
People often praise weight loss and castigate weight gain. This pressure, along with the difficulty of dieting, can increase the risk of binging. Dietitians, psychologists, and doctors note a correlation between long-term eating restrictions and BED. Often, it’s a product of weight cycling, in which a person loses and regains weight repeatedly throughout their life.
However, it's important to change the conversation around weight. Discussing nutritious foods, exercise, and how to be healthy in one's own body needs to be a top priority. Know that, with the right tools and resources, you or a loved one can thrive at any size.
You’re Not Alone
BED can lead to various life-threatening health conditions, from heart disease to cancer. For that reason, it's essential to get it diagnosed as soon as possible. If you suspect that you may have BED or another eating disorder, please contact White Pine Center for Healing today. We offer education & prevention and outpatient services.