What is binge eating?

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) says that binge eating disorder is a class of eating disorder characterized by an individual experiencing recurring episodes in which he or she consumes large amounts of food, often quite fast and until he or she is left feeling uncomfortable. During one such episode, someone suffering from binge eating disorder tends to feel out of control, and after a binge, he or she is likely to feel guilt, shame, or even distress.

Diagnostic Criteria of Binge Eating Disorder

The diagnostic criteria for binge eating disorder are as follows:

  • Recurring episodes in which someone binge eats; an episode is characterized by an individual eating an amount of food that’s larger than what most people would consume during a discrete period of time. Another hallmark of a binge eating episode is lacking a sense of control over consumption during said episode.
  • The binge eating episodes in question are associated with at least three of the following:
    • Eating until one feels uncomfortably full
    • Eating along because one is embarrassed by how much he or she is consuming
    • Eating a large amount of food even if one is not feeling physically hungry
    • Eating far quicker than one normally would
    • Feeling guilty, disgusted with oneself, and/or depressed afterwards
  • One is clearly distressed regarding his or her binge eating.
  • The said binge eating occurs on an average for at least once a week for three months.
  • The aforementioned binge eating is not performed in tandem with other “inappropriate compensatory behaviors” such as vomiting.
  • The binge eating does not occur only when one is also experiencing anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.


There are various physical signs that may point to binge eating disorder. These may include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Noticeable fluctuations in weight (both an increase and decrease)
  • Stomach cramps and other gastrointestinal complaints such as acid reflux and constipation

There are also various behavioral and emotional symptoms that may occur. These could include:

  • Seeming uncomfortable eating around other people
  • Fear of eating with other or in public
  • Hoarding food in odd places
  • Stealing food
  • Frequent dieting
  • Disappearance of large amounts of food in a short period of time
  • Appearance of empty containers or wrappers that could indicate large amounts of consumption
  • Social withdrawal
  • The creation of a schedule or rituals that allow time for binge eating sessions
  • Showing excessive concern for one’s shape and body weight
  • Frequently checking for perceived flaws using mirrors
  • Feelings of low self-esteem
  • The development of food rituals, such as only eating a particular food group
  • Excessive chewing
  • Not allowing foods to touch
  • New food practices or fad diets, such as cutting out carbs, veganism, vegetarianism, and the like


Binge eating disorder also comes with a host of potential health risks, many of which the illness shares with weight stigma, clinical obesity, and weight cycling (also called yo-yo dieting). While most individuals who are deemed clinically obese do not suffer from binge eating disorder, up to two-thirds of those who are diagnosed with binge eating disorder are deemed clinically obese. Binge eating on its own may cause one’s stomach to rupture, which would create a life-threatening emergency for someone. It can also lead to Type 2 Diabetes down the line, as binge eating could increase someone’s resistance to insulin over time. Overall, individuals who struggle with binge eating disorder tend to be what would be considered an average or above-average size within the context of their age and height.

Binge eating disorder is, in fact, the most common eating disorder here in the United States. And while it is a severe illness and can escalate to become life-threatening, it is absolutely treatable. If you or a loved one is experiencing bulimia nervosa or otherwise disordered eating, we are here to help at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You may contact us via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.

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