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What is binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder is a mental-health condition that is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating without efforts on the part of affected individuals to compensate by undoing the binge episodes. Examples of such undoing behaviors include purging food by inducing vomiting, excessively exercising, and/or inappropriately using medications like laxatives or diet pills. This illness was generally described by mental-health professionals under the diagnosis of eating disorder, not otherwise specified rather than as its own separate entity, but the most recent revision of the widely accepted diagnostic manual used by mental-health professionals has included binge eating disorder as a separate diagnosis.

Statistics about binge eating disorder indicate that this condition is the most common of all eating disorders, affecting about 3.5% of women and 2% of men over the course of a lifetime. As with other eating disorders, there tends to be no significant difference the age at which males and females develop binge eating disorder. Males with eating disorders like binge eating disorder tend to have a much higher body mass index (BMI) and are more likely to also suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) compared to males of similar age without the disorder. Females with eating disorders like binge eating disorders are at increased risk for also having celiac disease and diabetes.

It is apparently quite common in individuals who seek treatment for obesity in weight-loss programs that are affiliated with a hospital. About one-third of individuals with this condition are males. Most develop the disorder during adolescence or early adulthood, primarily in early adulthood. There seems to be no difference in the incidence of binge eating disorder among ethnic groups.

Binge eating disorder can have a significant impact on the health of those who suffer from it. Specifically, about 65% of people with binge eating disorder are obese (20% overweight or more), with even more being generally overweight. Individuals who develop binge eating disorder are at higher risk of also having another psychiatric illness, like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Women with this illness tend to suffer from a negative body image, whereas men are more likely develop a substance-use disorder. Other important facts about binge eating disorder include its tendency to last for more than 14 years, with only 7% resolving after the first year of having the illness. When compared to other eating disorders like bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa, which each tend to last less than six years, binge eating disorder has more of a chronic course.

Return to Binge Eating Disorder

See what others are saying

Comment from: ARuvon, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: May 04

After my father passed away the depression became so overwhelming that I turned to binge eating to help ease some of the mental pain. I would eat until I was physically sick, then I didn't think about my dad being gone. I did this for 6 months, until I had finally had enough. It added more guilt and depression and I finally told my physician who has continued to help me. I still have bad days, and have binged a few times, but not nearly as much as I did during those 6 months.

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