Compulsive Overeating vs. 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 Symptoms

Binge eating disorder symptoms and signs include recurring episodes of binge eating without purging, excessive exercising, the inappropriate use of medications, or any other unhealthy behaviors that are often used by bulimic individuals to attempt to compensate for the binge episodes. 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 they are not.

Compulsive overeating vs. binge eating disorder facts

  • While compulsive overeating involves having trouble resisting the urge to consume more calories than are needed to stay healthy, binge eating disorder is a mental illness characterized by compulsions and other symptoms occurring at least weekly for three months.
  • Binge eating disorder is thought to be the result of multiple risk factors. Compulsive overeating tends to occur more in families and in members of the same household as other sufferers.
  • There is no single test to diagnose binge eating disorder, so health practitioners will do so by gathering extensive information.
  • Treatment for binge eating disorder or compulsive overeating usually includes several kinds of interventions, both medical and counseling.
  • Complications of compulsive overeating include obesity and resulting health problems.
  • While most people who purposely lose weight tend to gain it back at some time, up to 80% of people with binge eating disorder recover from the condition.
  • Approaches to drug addiction prevention are thought to be useful in preventing binge eating disorder or compulsive overeating.

What is compulsive overeating? What is binge eating disorder?

While overeating is defined as eating more calories than are necessary to maintain health and can become hard to control the urge to do so (compulsive), binge eating disorder (BED) is a mental health condition that involves recurring episodes of compulsively (uncontrollably) eating far more than normal, often after feeling full or otherwise when not hungry. It leads to physical and emotional discomfort of some kind, like guilt, shame, embarrassment, remorse, and self-disgust. While both binge eating disorder and otherwise compulsive overeating may involve eating in reaction to certain feelings (emotional eating), not everyone who overeats suffers from binge eating or any other eating disorder. However, overeating is a symptom for everyone who has binge eating disorder. BED is understood to be an impulse control disorder and involves compulsive behaviors. It affects about 5% of adults in the United States over their lifetime, more than the number of people who have anorexia nervosa and bulimia combined.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/14/2017

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