Binge Eating (cont.)

What Are the Signs of Binge Eating Disorder?

Someone with a binge eating disorder has frequent episodes of binge eating, occurring at least two days a week for six months.

Binge eating episodes are associated with at least three of the following symptoms.

  • Eating rapidly
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Eating alone because of embarrassment
  • Feeling disgusted, depressed or guilty after overeating

While binge eaters are typically distressed about this pattern, they do not induce vomiting, fast, or abuse laxatives or diuretics.

Binge eating also occurs with another eating disorder, called bulimia nervosa. Persons with bulimia nervosa, however, usually purge, fast, or do strenuous exercise after they binge eat. Purging means vomiting or using a lot of diuretics (water pills) or laxatives to keep from gaining weight. Fasting is not eating for at least 24 hours. Strenuous exercise, in this case, means exercising for more than an hour just to keep from gaining weight after binge eating. Purging, fasting, and over exercising are dangerous ways to try to control your weight.

Often, a person with binge eating disorder feels overweight and has a history of trying to lose weight many times. Yet many failed diets may leave them feeling powerless over the binge-eating pattern.

How Is Binge Eating Treated?

Binge-eating disorder is best treated with a combination of approaches. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and insight-oriented therapy, can help patients learn to recognize the thoughts and feelings that can trigger binge eating. Group therapy can also be quite helpful in helping patients feel less shame around their symptoms. Some self-help strategies such as keeping a journal and meditation can help people to identify and tolerate difficult feelings that can lead to binge eating. Nutritional counseling can be used to educate the patient about healthy food choices and, more importantly, about how to recognize the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. Finally, for some people, certain medications such as antidepressants can help to treat associated depressive symptoms and in some patients can help regulate the urge to binge eat.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on June 19, 2012

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Last Editorial Review: 6/19/2012

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