Binge Eating Disorder: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Treatment

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the United States. It involves regular episodes of excessive eating, often very quickly and to the point of discomfort. Unlike bulimia nervosa, individuals with BED don't consistently engage in purging behaviours, such as vomiting or excessive exercise. BED can result in various health complications, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and depression. Treatment often includes psychotherapy, medications, and dietary interventions.

Symptoms  of Binge Eating Disorder

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Binge Eating Disorder, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Psychologist.


The exact cause of BED is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Brain chemicals might play a role, as could experiences such as trauma or significant life changes. Societal pressures and possibly brain changes linked to excessive eating might also contribute.

Risk Factors

• Personal history: Individuals who have a history of dieting or other eating disorders may be at risk.

• Psychological issues: Low self-esteem, depression, or anxiety can contribute. • Age: While BED can begin at any age, it often starts in the late teens or early 20s.

• Family history: Having a family member with BED or another eating disorder can increase the risk.

• Complications: BED can lead to obesity, which in turn raises the risk for conditions like heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. It can also lead to mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.


• Consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time.

• Feeling a lack of control during binge episodes.

• Eating when not hungry and until uncomfortably full.

• Eating alone due to embarrassment.

• Feeling guilty, ashamed, or distressed after overeating.

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A diagnosis is usually based on a person's medical and family history, a physical exam, and a psychological evaluation. A healthcare professional might employ the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) criteria for BED diagnosis.


• Psychotherapy: Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is the most common and has been shown to be effective.

• Medications: Antidepressants, antipsychotic medications, and anti-seizure drugs might be prescribed.

• Dietary Consultation: Nutrition counselling can be helpful in promoting a healthier relationship with food.

Preventive Measures

Here are more elaborated preventive measures for BED:

1. Promote a Healthy Relationship with Food:

• Avoid labelling foods as "good" or "bad": This can contribute to feelings of guilt when consuming "bad" foods, potentially leading to a binge.

• Listen to hunger and fullness cues: Recognizing and respecting your body's natural signals can help establish healthy eating patterns.

2. Education and Awareness:

• Early education: Teaching young people about healthy eating habits and body image can lay the foundation for a lifelong positive relationship with food.

• Media literacy: Understanding the unrealistic standards of beauty often portrayed in media can reduce feelings of inadequacy or body dissatisfaction.

3. Build Emotional Resilience:

• Coping strategies: Develop non-food related ways to cope with stress, such as exercise, meditation, or engaging in a hobby.

• Seek therapy: Regular therapy sessions, even before the onset of BED, can be useful in identifying and managing emotional triggers.

4. Stay Connected:

• Open communication: Encourage open conversations about feelings, body image, and self-worth in families and among peers.

• Join support groups: Engaging with groups that focus on positive body image or eating disorder prevention can offer guidance and camaraderie.

5. Avoid Weight Stigmatization:

• Promote body positivity: Emphasizing self-worth and self-acceptance irrespective of body size can reduce the risk of developing eating disorders.

• Challenge weight-based discrimination: Stand against behaviours or comments that marginalize or shame people based on their weight, as these can exacerbate negative self-perceptions.

6. Monitor Medications:

 • If you are on medications that have increased appetite or weight gain as side effects, have regular consultations with your healthcare provider. They can adjust dosages or suggest alternatives if necessary.

7. Regular Medical Check-ups:

• Monitor physical health: Regular check-ups can identify any health concerns, such as hormonal imbalances, that might contribute to changes in eating behaviours.

• Monitor mental health: Keeping a check on mental well-being helps in early identification of anxiety, depression, or other factors that might lead to BED.

8. Stay Informed:

• Stay updated with research: New insights and findings about BED and other eating disorders can provide additional preventive strategies.

9. Avoid Triggers:

• If specific situations, emotions, or environments lead to the urge to binge, recognize them and develop strategies to handle or avoid them.

10. Practice Mindfulness:

 • Techniques like mindfulness meditation can help individuals stay present, recognize triggers, and make conscious choices rather than reacting impulsively.

Do's & Don’t's

Do's Don't
Seek professional help (therapist, doctor) Ignore or deny the problem
Establish regular eating patterns Skip meals or excessively restrict intake
Keep a food diary to track triggers Engage in crash diets or extreme fasting
Practice mindful eating Use food as a coping mechanism
Engage in regular physical activity Engage in excessive or punishing exercise
Identify and address emotional triggers Use food to numb or suppress emotions
Learn and use healthy coping mechanisms Avoid social situations involving food
Surround yourself with supportive people Isolate yourself due to shame or guilt
Educate yourself about Binge Eating Disorder Blame or criticize yourself for episodes
Practice self-compassion and patience Obsess over calorie counting or weight

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Binge Eating Disorder, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Psychologist.

Frequently Asked Questions
No, everyone overeats occasionally, but BED is frequent and excessive eating without the purging behaviours of bulimia.
Yes, many people with BED are overweight or obese, but not all. It can still result in emotional distress regardless of weight.
No, BED is a serious mental health disorder that requires medical attention and is not just about willpower.
Yes, while it's more common in adults, children can also develop BED.
Yes, many organizations offer support groups for those with BED, which can be beneficial for recovery.
While both involve binge eating, bulimia involves regular purging behaviours which are not present in BED.
With the right treatment, many people with BED can overcome the disorder, although some might experience recurring episodes.
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