Visual Guide to Binge Eating Disorder

health, May 2019

By Paul Krugman


What Is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder isn’t the same as occasional overeating.

Binge eating disorder isn’t the same as occasional overeating.

Plenty of people eat too much once in a while. Who hasn’t had a stomachache after a huge Thanksgiving dinner? People with this eating disorder, though, feel compelled to do so on a regular basis — at least
once a week over a period of 3 months or longer.

Feeling Distressed
People who have binge eating disorder feel they can’t control how much or even what they’re eating.

People who have binge eating disorder feel they can’t control how much or even what they’re eating. They often eat alone, until they feel sick, or when they’re not hungry. Guilt, shame, disgust, or sadness come after the binge. People may feel so embarrassed about their behavior that they go out of their way to hide it from friends and family.

It’s Different From Bulimia Bulimia and binge eating disorder aren’t the same, although they share some symptoms.

Bulimia and binge eating disorder aren’t the same, although they share some symptoms. People with bulimia also regularly overeat, and they may feel the same negative emotions, such as a loss of control, shame, or guilt. The key difference is that people with bulimia “purge” afterward. They might make themselves vomit, use laxatives or diuretics, or exercise too much. Purging is not part of binge eating disorder.

Who Is at Risk?

Anyone can develop binge eating disorder, regardless of race, sex, age, or weight.

Anyone can develop binge eating disorder, regardless of race, sex, age, or weight. It’s believed to be the most common eating disorder in the U.S. Although women are slightly more likely to have it, men can also get it. More than 6 million Americans — 2% of men and 3.5% of women — will have this condition at some point in their lives. Men are more likely to have it in middle age. Among teens, 1.6% have binge eating disorder.

How It Affects Weight

Many people who develop binge eating disorder also struggle with their weight.

Many people who develop binge eating disorder also struggle with their weight. Among people with the disorder, about two-thirds are obese, and one study found that as many as 30% of people who seek weight-loss treatment may also have it. People who are overweight or obese are also at risk for related health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.

It’s About Mental Health

Many people with binge eating disorder also have other emotional or mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse.

Many people with binge eating disorder also have other emotional or mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse. They may also feel stressed, have trouble
sleeping, and struggle with low self-esteem or body image shame.

What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?

Experts aren’t sure exactly what causes eating disorders. Experts aren’t sure exactly what causes eating disorders. A mix of factors, including a person’s genes, psychology, and background, may be involved.
Dieting can lead to binge eating disorder, but we don’t know whether that alone can trigger it. Some people may be extra sensitive to food cues, such as smells or images of food.