What is Binge-Eating Disorder?
Binge-eating disorder is characterized by recurrent binge-eating episodes that are accompanied by marked distress, a sense of lack of control, and feelings of self-loathing, disgust, or guilt. These episodes involve eating, in a discrete period of time, an amount of food that is objectively larger than what most individuals would eat in a similar period of time, under similar circumstances. Binge-eating episodes are associated with eating much more rapidly than normal and/or until uncomfortably full; eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry; and/or eating alone due to embarrassment about the amount one is eating. Unlike bulimia nervosa, these binge episodes are not followed by compensatory behaviors.
What Causes Binge-Eating Disorder?
Like all eating disorders, binge-eating disorder develops over a period of time as a result of a complicated blend of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. There is no single cause to point to and, despite common misconceptions, families and communities of support are not to blame. In fact, they are often recovery’s strongest ally. Many individuals have genetic predispositions to binge-eating disorder that, depending on environmental influences, may or may not be awakened over the course of their lifetime. Binge-eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States and the most prevalent eating disorder among males. The mean age of onset for the disorder is 18 years and the vast majority of individuals who are diagnosed with binge-eating disorder also struggle with psychiatric, mood, or anxiety disorders and/or impulse control and substance abuse.
Malnutrition-Induced Changes in Physiological Processes & Altered Hunger and Fullness Signals
Experiencing a Traumatic Event
Genetic Predisposition & Societal Pressures (e.g., Drive for Thinness)
Lack of Environmental Control & Persistent, Extreme Stress or Minority Stress
What to Look For
Being familiar with the signs and symptoms can help you champion early intervention and recovery through binge-eating disorder treatment. Watch for binge-eating episodes that are not associated with compensatory behaviors, but are associated with feelings of lack of control or self-loathing and occur, on average, at least once a week for three months. Associated disorders, or “comorbidities,” include major depressive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar I & II disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
- Binge-Eating Episodes that Occur 1 or 1+ Times a Week
- Marked Distress around Binge-Eating Episodes
- Avoiding Meal Times & Eating Alone or in Secret
- Feelings of Lack of Control, Guilt, Shame, Self-Loathing,
or Disgust around Food or Eating
Risks of Binge-Eating Disorder
Binge-eating disorder can have extreme medical and physiological consequences that may or may not resolve completely during recovery.
- Chronic Pain including Headaches, Back & Neck Pain
- Diabetes & Hypertension
- In Males: Decreased Frequency of Erections
& Nocturnal Emissions
- In Females: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Endometrial
Cancer & Difficulty Conceiving