Binge-eating disorder is more common among people who are overweight or obese.
People eat large amounts of food rapidly, do not purge, and are very distressed by their behavior.
Doctors base the diagnosis on people’s description of their behavior.
Treatment aims to help people control binge eating and includes cognitive-behavioral therapy, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI, a type of antidepressant), and stimulant drugs.
Weight-loss programs, some weight-loss drugs, and stimulant drugs may help control weight.
Overall, about 3.5% of women and 2% of men have binge-eating disorder. But the disorder becomes more common with increasing body weight. In some weight-reduction programs, 30% or more of obese people have the disorder.
Most people with binge-eating disorder are overweight or obese, and the disorder contributes to their consumption of excessive calories. In contrast, most people with bulimia nervosa Bulimia Nervosa Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by the repeated rapid consumption of large amounts of food (binge eating), followed by attempts to compensate for the excess food consumed... read more have a normal weight, and people with anorexia nervosa Anorexia Nervosa Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a relentless pursuit of thinness, a distorted body image, an extreme fear of obesity, and restriction of food consumption, leading to... read more are thin. People with binge-eating disorder are older than those with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and nearly half are men.
Did You Know?
Symptoms of Binge-Eating Disorder
During an episode of binge eating, people eat a much larger amount of food than most people would eat in a similar time under similar circumstances. Circumstances and culture are important because the amount considered excessive for a normal meal may differ from the amount considered excessive for a holiday meal. During and after a binge, people feel as if they lost control and are distressed. People with binge-eating disorder do not compensate for the binge by purging (by making themselves vomit or misusing laxatives, diuretics, or enemas), exercising excessively, or fasting. Binge eating occurs in episodes, as opposed to constant overeating.
People with binge-eating disorder may also do the following:
Eat much more rapidly than normal
Eat until they feel uncomfortably full
Eat large amounts of food when they do not feel hungry
Eat alone because they are embarrassed
Feel disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating
People with binge-eating disorder are distressed by it, especially if they are trying to lose weight. People are more likely to have depression Overview of Mood Disorders Mood disorders are mental health disorders that involve emotional disturbances consisting of long periods of excessive sadness (depression), excessive joyousness or elation (mania), or both... read more or anxiety Overview of Anxiety Disorders Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, worry, or unease that is a normal human experience. It is also present in a wide range of psychiatric disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder,... read more compared with those who do not have the disorder. Also, obese people with binge-eating disorder are more likely to be preoccupied with body shape, weight, or both than obese people who are not binge eaters.
Diagnosis of Binge-Eating Disorder
A doctor's evaluation
Doctors diagnose binge-eating disorder when
People report binge eating at least once a week for 3 months or more.
Binges are accompanied by a feeling of no control over eating.
People have typical symptoms and behavior.
Treatment of Binge-Eating Disorder
Certain antidepressants and stimulant drugs
Possibly weight-loss drugs and appetite suppressants
Possibly self-help groups and conventional weight-reduction programs
The following treatments may help:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help control binge eating over the long term but has little effect on body weight.
Interpersonal psychotherapy is as effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy but also has little effect on body weight.
Stimulant drugs Drug therapy Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is poor or short attention span and/or excessive activity and impulsiveness inappropriate for the child’s age that interferes with functioning... read more (such as those used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) Agomelatine, a new type of antidepressant, is a possible treatment for major depressive episodes. Several types of drugs can be used to treat depression: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors... read more (a type of antidepressant), such as fluoxetine, can help people stop binge eating for a short period of time and may result in weight loss.
Weight-loss drugs Drugs Obesity is excess body weight. Obesity is influenced by a combination of factors, which usually results in consuming more calories than the body needs. These factors may include physical inactivity... read more (such as orlistat) or appetite suppressants (such as topiramate) may help with weight loss.
Self-help groups that follow the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous (such as Overeaters Anonymous and Food Addicts Anonymous) are widespread, but their effectiveness is uncertain.
Conventional behavioral weight-reduction programs can help people lose weight and stop binge eating for a short period of time, but people tend to return to binge eating.
Surgery to treat severe obesity Bariatric Surgery Bariatric (weight-loss) surgery alters the stomach, intestine, or both to produce weight loss. In the United States, about 160,000 people have bariatric surgery each year. This number accounts... read more may be done, but its effects on binge eating are unclear.
More Information about Binge-Eating Disorder
The following are some English-language resources that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.
National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA): Large nonprofit organization that provides access to online screening tools, a helpline, forums, and a variety of support groups (some virtual)
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD): Provides access to curricula and training for medical and health care professionals, as well as peer-to-peer support groups, self-help, and other services
National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), Eating Disorders: A clearinghouse for information on eating disorders, including statistics on prevalence, brochures and fact sheets (also available in Spanish), education and awareness campaigns, and information on relevant clinical trials