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  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

    Binge eating disorder (BED) has several key symptoms, including regular episodes of uncontrolled eating and resulting feelings of distress.

    If you feel like you tend to overeat, you may wonder if you have binge eating disorder (BED).

    Many people overeat, particularly on special occasions like a holiday dinner. However, if you have BED, you feel out of control — like you can’t stop eating — when you’re experiencing a binge eating episode.

    These bingeing episodes may cause feelings of shame and distress, but it’s important to remember that if you have BED, you’re not alone.

    According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1.2% of people in the United States have BED — that’s 3.9 million people. About 1.6% of females and 0.8% of males are living with this condition.

    If you have BED, you may have the following symptoms, which are based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)Trusted Source.

    Repeated binge eating episodes

    An episode of binge eating has these two basic characteristics:

    • Large amount. You eat an amount of food within a particular time period that is larger than what most people would eat in a similar period. The specific type of food doesn’t matter, but it’s often high in carbs or fat.
    • Loss of control. You feel a lack of control over your eating during the episode, like you can’t stop or control how much you eat.

    Three or more of these symptoms

    To be diagnosed with BED, you would have at least three of the following symptoms:

    • You eat much more rapidly than usual.
    • You eat until you feel uncomfortably full.
    • You consume large amounts of food even when you’re not feeling hungry.
    • You eat alone because you feel embarrassed by how much you’re eating. Some people attempt to conceal their symptoms.
    • You feel disgusted with yourself, depressed, or very guilty after the binge.

    You’re distressed about binge eating

    Another sign of BED is if your binge eating episodes cause you to feel extremely distressed.

    This could mean berating yourself over a recent binge eating episode or worrying how it may negatively affect your body.

    Frequent, recurring binge eating

    If you have BED, you also experience recurring episodes of binge eating that occur about once a week or more for at least  3 months.

    No compensatory behavior

    Compensatory behaviors are any action a person takes to reverse the effects of their behavior.

    In the context of eating disorders, compensatory behaviors may include:

    • vomiting on purpose (purging)
    • fasting
    • exercising excessively
    • using laxatives

    People with BED don’t tend to engage in these compensatory behaviors after a bingeing episode, but they can be a sign of bulimia nervosa

    When to See a Doctor

    One thing to keep in mind is that weight loss programs are generally the wrong approach when it comes to BED, despite media outlets and even many healthcare professionals suggesting the contrary.

    If you speak with a healthcare professional who seems to want to focus on weight loss as a BED solution, consider switching to a different doctor or therapist who takes a “weight-neutral” approach.The first-line treatment for BED is usually a form of talk therapy, such as:

    Consider reaching out to one of our therapists today for an free 30-minute consultation or to connect you with a local eating disorders group for additional support.