Understanding Binge Eating Disorder

When people hear the term eating disorder, their mind usually associate that term with either anorexia or bulimia. And while these are serious disorders, they’re not the only ones. While some eating disorders are about an individual reducing their food intake, some are about increased food intake. In fact, around 5% of people with eating disorders suffer from binge eating disorder (BED). BED causes individuals to eat large and unhealthy quantities of food in a short time period.

What Is Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder has been around for awhile (most doctors have been recognizing the disorder since the 1950s). However, it has only been recently added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5).

People with BED feel they have little control over their binges, where they eat large quantities of food in short periods. Often these binges are to deal with emotional distress. Binging is common in other eating disorders, but unlike bulimic binges, people with BED don’t follow their binges with a purge.


Binge eating disorder can be hard to identify at times. Here are a few symptoms that a psychiatrist looks for to diagnosis it:

Recurrent episodes of binge eating (weekly) are cause for concern. Everyone over eats occasionally, but if it is happening regularly this could be a symptom of BED. Often the foods eaten during these binging episodes are extremely unhealthy. People with binge eating disorder consume thousands of calories in a short periods of time.

As you might guess, people with BED continue to eat past the point of fullness. They also eat more rapidly than normal. People with BED may not even taste the food they are eating or be so consumed with eating as quickly as possible that they miss out on the pleasurable sensation of eating entirely.

Shame and guilt are common feelings people with BED experience after an episode of binge eating. They may only do it when others aren’t around, or they may hide the evidence of their binges. This is to limit the amount of shame and humiliation they feel.

If binge eating is followed by purging or caloric restrictions, then bulimia may be a more appropriate diagnosis. Diagnosing an eating disorder can be difficult since many share the same symptoms. That is why it’s important to get professional help so that the person receives the correct treatment.


The world we live in is centered around food. From aggressive food marketing campaigns to the “foodie” movement, it’s everywhere. Unfortunately, this type of environment can be extremely triggering to people who suffer from binge eating disorder. Most research into eating disorders has focused on anorexia and bulimia, but researchers are starting to figure out what exactly causes BED. Here are a few potential causes.

Psychological disorders and stress may cause BED. People cope with stress by eating, so in high-stress environments, or when another mental health issue is left untreated, people may turn to food for comfort.

Rigid diet practices may also be a cause. Our culture is very hypocritical. We get blasted with food advertisements yet we disparage people who aren’t thin or fit. Many people, especially women, are constantly trying to diet and lose weight to fit into this ideal mold. Research shows that restrictive diets cause some people to react with binge eating.

Age and gender play a role in BED. Women are more likely to develop BED, although unlike other eating disorders, men make up a much higher percentage of the affect population. Most people with BED are middle-aged, which distinguishes it from other eating disorders which are most common in young women.

Biology and genetics are also likely factors in an individual developing BED. Brain chemistry, genetic, family history, and other similar factors may increase one’s likelihood of developing it.


Binge eating disorder poses serious health risks. Weight is the most obvious danger with this disorder. Frequent bingers are at risk for gaining large quantities of weight, which increased their risk for other ailments such as osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, cardiovascular issues, and other. Because guilt and shame are often felt, people with BED may also develop low self-esteem, self-hatred, or depression.

The weight gain many people with BED experience causes secondary consequences as well. Research has shown that society discriminates based on weight. Overweight people may get fewer or lower job offers, are vulnerable to bullying, and may not get adequate health care.

Binge Eating Disorder Treatment

The good news is that like other eating disorders, binge eating disorder is treatable. The treatment for BED is similar to other protocols of eating disorders. The first step is to ensure stability with any health problems. For example, if a person with BED has diabetes, it’s important to treat that before treating the underlying mental health issues.

Individual therapy has proven to be highly effective in treating BED. Therapy works to uncover the reasons behind the binging as well as providing tools for coping with food cravings and emotional distress. In addition to therapy, some psychiatrists recommend medication.

Contact us today to take control over your binge eating disorder. We are more than happy to help you take your life back.

Dr. Raul J. Rodriguez

Dr. Raul Rodriguez


Existing patients, please text 561-409-7296 for follow-up appointment requests or if you have medication concerns please text 561-409-7296.