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Understanding Binge Eating: FAQ

written by: Roohi Khan • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 5/9/2011

If you consume large amounts of food and think that the eating is just out of control, you may be a binge eater. Read these facts to find out more.

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    Binge eating is an eating disorder in which a person eats an unusually large amount of food in a very short period of time. The person also feels that his/her eating is out of control. Get the facts and answers to common questions about this disorder to find out if and how you should seek help for your symptoms.

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    How Common is the Disorder?

    Binge eating is the most common of all eating disorders. In the United States alone around 3 percent people are believed to be affected. Although it is common in all ages, it is seen more often in people aged between 46 and 55. It is more common in women than men.

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    What are the Symptoms?

    Just because you overeat from time to time or you think you have eaten more than you should does not mean that you are a binge eater. It is only when this overeating becomes a regular occurrence and is done in secrecy that it becomes a problem. Here are some of the symptoms that can help you identify if you or someone you know has this eating disorder:

    • Eating large amounts of food even when not hungry
    • Eating even if you are full or till you become uncomfortably full
    • Eating quickly during a bingeing episode
    • Feeling that your eating is out of control
    • Feeling embarrassed about the amount you eat so you end up eating alone
    • Inability to resist the urge to binge eat
    • Feeling disgusted with yourself or feel guilty and depressed after overeating
    • Frequent attempts at dieting but with no weight loss
    • You try to diet after an episode of binge eating, but restricting your diet leads to more episodes of binge eating
    • Although your weight may be normal, you are more likely to be obese or overweight
    • Episodes occur at least twice a week regularly for six months
    • There is no purging or self-induced vomiting like in bulimia nervosa
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    What are the Causes?

    The causes of this eating disorder are not known. However, it is believed that certain people are more likely to become binge eaters than others. Here are some of the risk factors that may cause a person to become a binge eater:

    • Genes may play a role since studies have found that the disorder runs in families.
    • Binge eaters often have low self-worth and have problems handling their emotions. They are usually angry, sad, worried, and stressed. They are unable to express their anger and resentments and are prone to impulsive thinking.
    • A history of depression and drug or alcohol abuse is often noticed in binge eaters.
    • It has been noticed that some people binge after dieting, however, the relationship is not very clear.
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    Are There any Complications?

    There can be complications from binge eating. These are generally due to being overweight as well as the habit of going from bingeing to dieting and back to bingeing again. Common complications are depression and suicidal thoughts, obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive diseases, and joint and muscle pain.

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    How is it Treated?

    The treatment of binge eating disorder may include consultations with medical doctors, mental health providers, and dieticians who are experienced in eating disorders. The goal of treatment is to reduce the bingeing episodes and improve the emotional health of the individual.

    Treatment of binge eating may involve psychotherapy in the form of individual or group sessions, medications such as anti-depressants, and weight loss or self-help strategies. Weight loss programs are designed to help the person lose weight sensibly, and are not related to the eating disorder.

    Self-help strategies such as staying connected with loved ones, exercising regularly, finding situations that trigger the eating behavior and learning positive ways to deal with them, meditating, and writing a journal can help in overcoming this eating disorder.

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    Where Can I Get Support?

    If you have gone through these binge eating facts and think that you or someone you know has this eating disorder, you are not alone. Along with getting professional help, there are various support groups that offer guidance and advice. These are people who understand you well because they have themselves gone through similar episodes.

    Organizations such as National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders and Overeater's Anonymous have support groups with people just like you. Get in touch with your physician or search online to find your nearest group.

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    References

    Weight Control Information Network: Binge Eating Disorder

    http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/binge.htm

    Mayo Clinic: Binge eating disorder

    www.mayoclinic.com/health/binge-eating-disorder/DS00608