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Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is a serious mental  illness condition.  It is also called as compulsive eating. Let us understand this compulsive behavior that takes one to the path of self-destruction and poor heath.

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Case Study

Jenny is a high school student. She is on the chubby side and often gets teased at school, by girls who think being fat is a sin. Her room is just typical of a teenager. But, it is in her wardrobe that one finds her secret tucked away, well, not exactly tucked. Her wardrobe is filled with packets of chips, candy, cookies and many other boxes of snacks. You will find her eating, even after a heavy dinner of pork chops her mom cooks so well. She will soon polish of boxed of cookies and not shy away from reaching the pack of chips.

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Jenny knows she is going to feel guilty and disgusted with herself after an hour, but she can’t stop. She gorges on her stock of food, trying to gulp down the bad feelings and the humiliation she suffered in school today by her ‘oh, so pretty’ peers. Once her stock is over, she tries to sleep, feeling guilty of eating so much and her ever increasing weight.


An eating disorder that is characterized by binge eating or compulsive eating without the urge to purge is called as binge eating disorder (BED). Everybody overeats at times. Teenagers are at a growing stage and many times have increased appetites. However, when one eats a large amount  food on a regular basis,  it is termed as binge eating.

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Binge eating is something when one is compelled to eat even when they are not hungry. They cannot stop after they have had their fill. It can occur in people suffering from anorexia and bulimia. It leads to people becoming overweight and obese.

Compulsive eaters eat when they feel out of control or bad about themselves or something. They know it can make them gain weight and feel worse about it. These people are continuously trying to control their weight, but fail to do so.

Binge Eating The Viscious Cycle

People eat when they are stressed, upset, hurt, angry, depressed. Many find comfort and solace when they eat. But soon after a binge, they feel guilty, remorse and disgust. They want to be slim and thin, but hate their appearance of being overweight. In order to cope up with this feeling, they find solace in food. They eat to feel better, then feel bad again and turn back to food. Thus, it turns into a vicious cycle of binge eating.

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Signs and Symptoms of Binge Eating

According to DSM-IV, the following criteria must be present in order to classify one’s behavior as a binge eating disorder. These signs include:

  • Binge eating should continue for about 2 hours and the amount of food consumed should be more than what most people would eat at the same time, in the same circumstance. Also, the eating is accompanied by a sense loss of control.
  • Binge eating should occur at least twice weeks  for 6 months.
  • Binge eating is not usually associated with or occurs exclusively with Bulimia Nervosa or Anorexia Nervosa.
  • The person is aware and is seriously concerned about their habit of binge eating.

Other emotional symptoms of which at least 3 should be exhibited by the patient, include:

  • Feeling of disgust, depression and may feel guilty of overeating
  • Eating a large amount of food at one time, more than a normal person would eat
  • Eating quickly during binge episodes
  • Continues to eat till one feels sick, nauseated, or becomes physically uncomfortable
  • Eats a lot when bored or depressed
  • Eats food,  even when one does not feel hungry
  • Tries to eat alone under normal circumstances as they are embarrassed by their feelings for food

Causes of Binge Eating Disorder

The causes of binge eating are not yet clear. It is thought their can be a family history of eating disorder, long-term dieting, biological factors, or psychological issues that can lead to binge eating. Social pressure can also lead to binge eating disorder.

Complications of Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating leads to many health problems. This is because one usually consumes food that is high in fat content and has low proteins and other nutrition. These health complications include:

Diagnosis of Binge Eating Disorders

Binge eaters have no desire to purge after overeating. Thus, they are often overweight and obese. The doctor will conduct a physical examination, carry out blood and urine tests and conduct a psychological evaluation. The doctor will then check if the patient meets the DSM-IV criteria for binge eating disorder.

Treatment for Binge Eating Disorders

The treatment for binge eating disorders aims at reducing the urge to overeat. It also aims at improving the emotional health and body weight of the patient. This can be achieved by:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Medications such as antidepressants, anticonvulsant topiramate
  • Behavioral weight-loss programs
  • Self-help strategies like exercise, taking up a hobby, listening to music, maintaining a food diary, managing stress, etc.

If you find someone you love has a binge eating disorder, make sure  they seek help. Try to be supportive and listen to them. Do not lecture, scold or insult the patient.  Instead, help them seek a positive channel and overcome their binge eating disorder.  This eating disorder can lead to many health complications. It requires supportive and cognitive help to overcome the desire to eat more than required.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 01, 2015