Binge Eating

If You Suffer From it, You Are Not Alone

What it is

Binge eating disorder (BED) is an eating disorder that is defined as a person having regular and uncontrollable bouts of overeating. According to Schreiber-Gregory (2013), the symptoms of the disorder are consuming a significant amount of food within a certain amount of time and while doing so, feeling like you cannot control whether or not you eat the food. Nolen-Hoeksema (2014) adds that some binge eaters consume food all day long without planned meals, or for shorter periods of time but eat very quickly. Nolen-Hoeksema (2014) goes on to define the disorder as a sufferer experiencing the following symptoms: eating as a response to anxiety or stress, being overweight or obese, feeling guilt or shame due to their binges, and possibly also suffering from depression or other mental disorders. This is an eating disorder as recognized by the DSM-5, and can be very difficult for a person to live with. Typically there are multiple negative side affects of BED, such as mental distress and poor physical health. It is also a disorder that many people attempt to hide from others, but feel as though their lives are defined by the disorder.

There are several subtypes of binge eating, as explained by Nolen-Hoeksema (2014), including the dieting subtype and the depressive subtype. The dieting subtype exists of individuals who have a negative body image, partake in extreme dieting and often, as a result, binge eat; which then translates into them purging their bodies of the food. The depressive subtype also suffers from a negative body image but binge eat as a result of his or her feelings of stress, depression, or low self esteem.

A clear description for BED, as written by an individual who both suffered and recovered from the disorder, is listed here

Who has it, and why

If you suffer from binge eating, you are not alone! Nolen-Hoeksema (2014) states that up to 3.5% of the American population suffers from binge eating, while up to 30% of weight-control program participants are binge eaters. Sufferers are also often chronic dieters, have a family history of obesity, and may also suffer from substance abuse (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Binge eating is somewhat evenly distributed across the races in America, although according to Alexander et al (2013), there is evidence that suggests slightly more individuals from minority groups in the United States suffer from binge eating. Women are also more likely than men to suffer from the disorder, although the rate of obesity due to the disorder is equal between the sexes (Alexander et al, 2013).

So what causes binge eating? According to Nolen-Hoeksema (2014), it can be a combination of several factors, which we will further explore. First, there are possible biological factors. Nolen-Hoeksema (2014) states that BED is hereditary, with 41% of participants of a twin study having the disorder. The problem may stem from a possible dysfunction in the hypothalamus' regulation of detecting hunger and fullness, a possible chemical imbalance in the brain, and possible addictive tendencies in a person's genetic makeup (Help Guide, n.d.). There is also the possibility of emotion regulation difficulty, which can contribute to an individual developing BED, as noted by Nolen-Hoeksema (2014). This is defined as eating large amounts of food as a way of dealing with painful emotions. As with all eating disorders, the problem can be compounded by a dysfunctional childhood, such as experiencing sexual abuse (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). For more information on reasons why certain individuals develop BED, please visit the following site:

What you can do, and where to find help

There is hope with binge eating! As with most mental disorders, there are several options for treatment available that can bring back the quality of life you desire and deserve! Many people who suffer from binge eating also suffer from obesity, and many of the symptoms associated with that. Alexander et al (2013) lists the following options for the treatment of binge eating: Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to address the impact of the psychological and physical relationship within a person (such as the feeling of not having control while binge eating); Behavioral Weight Loss (BWL) interventions (which addresses improved nutrition, controlled caloric intake, regular eating patterns, and improved physical activity); and possible medications as well.

Help for binge eating can start immediately with your own awareness about this disorder! The more you know, the better equipped you are to take action! "If someone is concerned he or she may be struggling with binge eating disorder, it is important to consult with a physician and seek an assessment from a qualified eating disorders specialist at a local eating disorders treatment center" ( (Tartakovsky, 2009). If you want to seek help from a therapist, please make sure they have a current license and if possible, experience with the disorder. According to Help Guide (n.d.), the types of therapy that would be effective to treat BED is Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Interpersonal Psychotherapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. This site also suggests asking family and friends for support, joinging a support group, or trying group therapy. It is beneficial to know that others struggle with the same disorder, and to have someone to help you overcome it. More information on the disorder, as well as more details on where and how to get help can be found by following the link to Binge Eating Disorder Association or by visiting this site

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Binge eating is a misunderstood disorder

There are many myths when it comes to BED. These misunderstandings can leave its sufferers feeling alone and depressed, and may even keep them from seeking treatment. As is explained by Tartakovsky (2009), the most common myth of BED by the public is that it is a lack of willpower; while the most common mistreatment of it by the medical community is weight loss management rather than getting to the source of the problem (such as focusing on the psychological reasons behind the behavior). Tartakovsky (2009) opposes these myths with the following statement, "I firmly believe that BED, for the vast majority of people, is an attempt at self care. To view BED as an attempt to survive, to soothe, to escape, is to meet the behavior with compassion and understanding" (Tartakovsky, 2009).

Most people can relate to the feeling of being misunderstood at times, or of being judged by others. This can be compounded for sufferers of eating disorders, such as BED. First, education on the topic for the individual is the best place to start in overcoming the myths; for once the person understands what the problem is and why they suffer from it, they can make more informed decisions in how and where to find help. Second, the more people who are made aware of this disorder, the more individuals there will be who will be able to support those who suffer from it in the way they need.

For more information on myths of BED and tips to overcome it, please visit this website at


Alexander, J., Goldschmidt, A., & Le Grange D., (2013). A clinician's guide to binge eating disorder. New York, NY: Routledge

Anonymous, (n.d.). Binge eating disorder, symptoms, causes, treatment, and help. Retrieved from

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2014). Abnormal Psychology (6th ed). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education

Schreiber-Gregory, D., Lavendar, J., Engel, S., Wonderlich, S., Crosby, R., Peterson, C., Simonich, H., Crow, S., Durkin, N., & Mitchell, J. (2013). Examining duration of binge eating episodes in binge eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 46:810-814. Retrieved from

Tartakovsky, M., (2009). Myths about binge eating and the challenges of recovery. Retrieved from