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Binge eating disorder

Eating disorder - binge eating; Eating - binge; Overeating - compulsive; Compulsive overeating

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.

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Causes

The exact cause of binge eating is unknown. Things that may lead to this disorder include:

In the United States, 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.

Symptoms

A person with binge eating disorder:

About two thirds of people 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.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your eating patterns and symptoms.

Blood tests may be done.

Treatment

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, 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.

Support Groups

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.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Binge eating is a treatable disorder. Long-term talk therapy seems to help the most.

Possible Complications

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:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you think you, or someone you care for, might have a pattern of binge eating or bulimia.

Related Information

Appetite - increased
Bulimia
Depression
Gas – flatulence
Pharyngitis - sore throat
Esophagitis
Foreign object - swallowed
Electrolytes
Hemorrhoids
Anorexia

References

American Psychiatric Association website. Feeding and eating disorder. In: American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013;329-345.

Kreipe RE, Starr TB. Eating disorders. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 41.

Lock J, La Via MC; American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Committee on Quality Issues (CQI). Practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with eating disorders. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2015;54(5):412-425. PMID: 25901778. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25901778/.

Svaldi J, Schmitz F, Baur J, et al. Efficacy of psychotherapies and pharmacotherapies for Bulimia nervosa. Psychol Med. 2019;49(6):898-910. PMID: 30514412. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30514412/.

Tanofsky-Kraff, M. Eating disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 206.

Thomas JJ, Mickley DW, Derenne JL, Klibanski A, Murray HB, Eddy KT. Eating disorders: evaluation and management. In: Stern TA, Fava M, Wilens TE, Rosenbaum JF, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 37.

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Review Date: 5/10/2020  

Reviewed By: Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Internal review and update on 08/20/2021 by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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