Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the United States. Sufferers quickly consume large amount of food and often experience a loss of control during the “binge” followed by feelings of guilt. It’s different from bulimia and anorexia in that purging isn’t necessarily part of the routine, with some sufferers experiencing weight gain rather than weight loss.


BED can be caused by developing an emotional association with food as a source of comfort when experiencing anxiety or stress. Depression and low self-esteem are frequently contributing factors. Some instances of BED are related to biological issues such as the malfunctioning of the part of the brain that triggers “fullness” feelings (hypothalamus).

What are the Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder?


As with other types of eating disorders, there is usually an effort to keep symptoms a secret from friends and family members. It’s usually discovered through evidence of stashes of extra food or consistently finding empty wrappers and containers with no clear explanation.


  • Eating periodically throughout day
  • Inability to control the impulse to eat even when full
  • Eating normally around others and binging when alone

Binge Eating Disorder Causes

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is commonly known as compulsive overeating. It refers to someone consuming excessive amounts of food and feeling unable to stop eating and at a loss of control over how much they eat. Episodes of binge eating are typically classified as occurring at practically any duration. There is considerable debate over what causes BED, but its effects are nonetheless serious since they can cause numerous problems. Some experts attribute the problem to biological, psychological, and social and cultural influences. A reason for one person’s BED might be considerably different from another. Many experts believe that BED also tends to run in families. As a result, when one person in a family suffers from BED for biological reasons, others in the same family might also have BED by being associated with that family member.

How is Binge Eating Disorder Treated?

Treatment typically involves changing eating patterns and counseling to deal with underlying psychological and behavioral issues. Patients are taught to dissociate food with emotions and find other coping methods, which may include developing productive hobbies, keeping a journal to identify what tends to trigger binges, or joining a local or online support group.

Sometimes linked to specific personally patterns (need to please others, desire to be perfect), BED is often associated with co-existing psychiatric and emotional disorders. It’s considered a treatable condition when underlying factors are identified and addressed and sufferers learn more effective ways to deal with stressful situations.

Binge Eating Disorder Prevention

Unfortunately, getting a grip on the methods of preventing BED is just as difficult as it is to ascertain its causes. Those who wish to prevent a problem with BED should carefully consider what experts deem the most likely causes of the problem, as well as their relationship to those issues. For example, if a person is concerned about their ability to avoid foods in a social setting, it might help to purposely avoid such social situations or to bring their own low-calorie snacks to such events. In certain extreme cases, professionals advise people to seek out psychological counseling when attempting to deal with these kinds of problems, as well as related disorders. This is especially true for those individuals who suffer from and experience embarrassment or shame over their eating habits since symptoms may often be hidden and remain hidden until help is received. This treatment usually focuses on dealing with the emotional triggers that cause BED in the first place.

Last Reviewed:
September 30, 2016
Last Updated:
November 16, 2017