Binge Eating Disorder

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Binge Eating Disorder Pictures Slideshow

Quick GuideEating Disorders Pictures Slideshow: Understanding Binge Eating, Anorexia and Bulimia

Eating Disorders Pictures Slideshow: Understanding Binge Eating, Anorexia and Bulimia

What are causes and risk factors for binge eating disorder?

As with most other mental disorders, there is no one specific cause for binge eating disorder. Rather, it is the result of a complex group of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. Individuals who are prone to obesity, either genetically or otherwise, tend to be more likely to develop binge eating disorder compared to those who are not obese. Environmental risk factors for binge eating disorders include a history of being bullied or physically or sexually abused. For Caucasian women as opposed to African-American women, discrimination tends to be a risk factor for this disorder, as well. Other risk factors for binge eating disorder include more exposure to negative comments about shape, weight, and eating. People who participate in competitive sports at an elite level are at higher risk for developing eating disorders in general.

Psychologically, binge eating disorder is thought of by many professionals to be a form of food addiction that is characterized by compulsive overeating. This condition tends to be associated with increased depression, anxiety, and substance-use disorders. Phobias and panic disorder are the most common anxiety problems experienced by people with binge eating disorder. Eating binges tend to be precipitated by a number of things, like dietary restrictions, hunger, and negative moods.

What are binge eating disorder symptoms and signs?

Binge eating disorder symptoms and signs include recurring episodes of binge eating without engaging in purging, excessive exercising, the use of medications, or any other behaviors that are often used by bulimic individuals to attempt to compensate for the binge episode. People with this mental illness tend to engage in stress or other emotional eating, take longer to feel full, and are more likely to feel like they are starving when that is not the case. The binge episodes are associated with at least three of the following characteristics:

  • Eating more rapidly than normal
  • Eating when not physically hungry
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Eating alone because of shame
  • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or guilty after overeating

Also, the individual with binge eating disorder experiences marked distress regarding their binge eating.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/18/2015

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