Binge Eating Disorder

Kylie, Madelyn and Hunter A-1

What is Binge Eating?

Binge eating is an eating disorder that is becoming more and more prevalent in America. It is characterized by eating an abnormally large amount of food in a short period of time, binge eating, without any purging. The difference between this disorder and other eating disorders like Bulimia and Anorexia is that there is no mechanism for controlling weight gain.


  • Eating much more food than most people would in the same situation.

  • It must be regular and the instances must occur at least once a week for three months.

  • Feeling that eating is out of control during a binge by either the inability to keep from starting to eat or the inability to stop eating once a binge eating episode has begun.

  • Binge eating instances include three or more of the following:

    • Eating extremely fast

    • Eating beyond feeling full

    • Eating large amounts of food when not hungry

    • Eating alone to hide how much one is eating

    • Feeling terrible after a binge

  • Being ashamed of the eating binges

  • Adults with B.E.D. don't fix their excessive eating with extreme actions like throwing up or over-exercising.


There is no definitive etiology for Binge Eating disorder, but there are several competing theories for what factors play into the disorder.

  • Low Self Esteem
  • Depression
  • Feeling stressed, angry, bored, or lonely
  • Dissatisfaction with your body
  • Stressful or traumatic past events
  • Familial history of similar eating disorder


  • Most common eating disorder in the US, affecting 1-5% of the general population

  • Affects 3.5% of women, 2% of men, and 1.6% of adolescents.

  • Women are affected more than men. 60% with the disorder are female, 40% of them are male.

  • It usually occurs in early adulthood for women and midlife for men.

  • It can occur in overweight, normal weight, and obese people.

  • Affects people of all demographics across various cultures.

  • Three surveys of U.S. adults found that 1.4% were white, 2.1% are Latino, 1.2% are asian, 1.5% are African American.

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Treatment Methods

The goal of treatment for binge eating disorder is to help the individual gain control over their eating behavior

  • Psychotherapy
    • Individual counseling that focuses on changing thinking (cognitive therapy) and behavior (behavioral therapy)
    • Changing the way an individual responds to food-related situations
    • Developing a healthy attitude towards food and weight
  • Medication
    • Lisdexamfetamine
      • Also used to treat ADHD
      • Helps reduce the number of binge eating episodes
    • Topiramate (Topamax)
      • Anti-seizure drug
    • Antidepressents
  • Nutrition counseling
    • Teach the importance of a balanced diet
    • Help restore normal eating patterns
  • Group and/or family counseling
    • Educate families on how to recognize symptoms of eating disorder

Related Case Study

A psychological case study conducted by Arch Gen Psychiatry evaluated a community to determine risk factors for binge eating disorder

  • Research method: Case study — compare women suffering from various psychological disorders such as binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa to determine risk factors
  • Conclusion: Binge eating disorder appears to be associated with exposure to risk factors for psychiatric disorder and for obesity
    • Risk factors
      • Childhood experiences
      • Parental depression
      • Vulnerability to obesity
      • Repeated exposure to negative comments about shape, weight, and eating

Biological Level of Analysis

The Biological Level of Analysis relate to the idea that the brain can affect behavior. Biological abnormalities can contribute to binge eating. Binge behavior can be a response to low serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is partially responsible for regulation of appetite, along with the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus can also cause the disorder by not sending correct signals about fullness and hunger. Food addiction that can cause a person to binge eat can also be caused by a genetic mutation. Those examples of biological abnormalities relate to the first and second principles of the biological level of analysis: emotions and behavior are products of the anatomy and physiology of the nervous and endocrine systems and that patterns of behavior can be inherited.

Cognitive Level of Analysis

The CLOA investigates how mental processes interpret information from the outside world

  • The third principle of the cognitive level of analysis states that social and cultural factors affect cognitive processes
    • Cultural influence heavily affects the way in which individuals think about their bodies
    • Western culture promotes fat-shaming and glorifies thinness
  • At the CLOA, it becomes evident how external influence can guide thoughts
    • Eating disorders are psychological disorders
    • Binging tendencies are often rooted in poor body image, use of food to deal with stress, low self-esteem and dysfunctional thoughts

Sociocultural of Analysis

The Sociocultural Level of Analysis studies how people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are affected by the perceived presence of others. The causes for binge eating disorder are deeply rooted in cultural norms and perceived standards for the perfect body. Insecurities about a person's body are related to the two principles of the SCLoA which state that "Humans are social animals and thus have a need to belong." and "Culture influences behavior". People with this disorder view the cultural expectations for body shape and appearance and think that they can never meet these expectations, so they compensate for their insecurities by binge eating.


National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved October 7, 2015, from

Risk Factors for Binge Eating Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved October 7, 2015, from