Binge Eating Disorder: What it is (and what is isn’t)

What is binge eating disorder?


Binge eating disorder (BED) is defined as recurring episodes of eating significantly more food that the average person would consume, in a short period of time. These episodes are marked by feelings of lack of control. Someone with BED may eat too quickly, even when not hungry. The person may have feelings of guilt, embarrassment, or disgust and may binge eat alone to hide the behavior. This disorder is associated with marked distress and occurs, on average, at least once a week over three months. BED was recently included in the DSM-5 in its own category, as a distinct type of eating disorder.

Warning Signs of BED

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food
  • Eating even when you’re full or not hungry
  • Eating rapidly during binge episodes
  • Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
  • Frequently eating alone
  • Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
  • Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
  • Experiencing depression and anxiety
  • Feeling isolated and having difficulty talking about your feelings
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss
  • Losing and gaining weight repeatedly, also called yo-yo dieting

(Source: Mayo Clinic)

Complications Associated with BED

  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Insomnia
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Gallbladder disease and other digestive problems
  • Heart disease
  • Some types of cancer
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Menstrual problems


BED demystified…

  • False: BED isn’t a real eating disorder

BED is not the same as “overeating”. It is marked with extreme emotional distress, and a feeling of lack of control. Additionally, BED is now listed in the DSM-V, alongside anorexia and bulimia.

  • False: Binge-eaters have no willpower

Many binge-eaters are actually very driven, determined, successful individuals. Individuals with BED are compelled to eat, just as an alcoholic is compelled to drink. It is not a choice, nor is it a question of willpower.

  • False: All binge-eaters are overweight

While many people with BED are overweight, not all are. Some binge-eaters go on crash diets to compensate for their binges. You cannot tell if someone has BED by simply looking at them.

  • False: Surgery is the best way to recover from BED

While gastric bypass or other types of bariatric surgery can help eliminate some of the physical problems associated with obesity, it does not help the psychological basis of the disorder.


Eating disorders do not discriminate.  Any age, sex, ethnicity, class, or culture can have an eating disorder.  The movies stereotype of a white, middle class, vain, and/or college student is far from the truth.

Need resources?

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Recovery is possible. #purplelove


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