February 26, 2016

Binge Eating Disorder

binge eating disorderAccording to NEDA, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is characterized by eating large quantities of food (usually to the point of feeling discomfort) in short periods of time, a feeling of loss/control during said binge, and experiencing shame, distress, and/or guilt over actions. It is the most common eating disorder in the U.S., and affects 3.5% of women, 2% of men, and up to 1.6% of adolescents. It is more common in early adulthood for women and in midlife for men.

BED has only recently been classified as a diagnosable eating disorder (this occurred in May 2013: prior to this, it was just a subcategory under Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified), which is a huge step forward in terms of treatment options. It is severe, life-threatening, and completely treatable. Treatment often involves cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and/or pharmacotherapy (meaning medication). Below are the diagnostic criteria for BED, as well as some typical characteristics of the disease and subsequent health consequences.

Symptoms/Diagnostic Criteria

A. Recurrent binge eating episodes

  • Eating an excessively large amount of food in a discrete (2 hour) period of time
  • Sense of lack of control while eating

B. Bing eating episodes typically associated with 3 or more of the following

  • Eating more rapidly than normal
  • Eating until you feel uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts of food even when not physically hungry
  • Eating alone because of feelings of embarrassment over behavior
  • Feelings of disgust, depression, or guilt following binge

C. Marked distress about binge eating behavior
D. Occurs at least once a week for 3 months
E. Binge eating not associated with subsequent compensatory actions (ex: purging, as in bulimia)

Behavioral Characteristics

  • Evidence of binge eating (including disappearance of large amounts of food, presence of wrappers, etc)
  • Secretive food behaviors, such as sneaking, stealing, or hoarding food
  • Periods of uncontrolled, impulsive eating beyond being uncomfortably full BUT DOES NOT PURGE AFTERWARDS
  • Changes lifestyle schedules to make time for binges

Mental/Emotional Characteristics

  • Feelings of anger, anxiety, worthlessness, or shame prior to binges (initiating the binge often numbs negative feelings or relieves tension)
  • Co-occurring depression may be present
  • Disgust over one’s body size

Certain thought patterns/personality types are associated with BED, including:

  • Rigid/inflexible “all or nothing” thinking
  • Strong need for control
  • Difficulty expressing feelings/emotions/needs
  • Tendencies of perfectionism
  • Working hard to please others

Physical Characteristics

  • Body weight varies: ranges from normal to mild, moderate, or severe obesity
  • There is a correlation between weight gain and BED BUT please note that not everyone who is overweight binges or has BED

Health Consequences
-Note: Though those with BED are not necessarily overweight, more than 2/3 are, and physical health problems tend to reflect that.

  • High blood pressure/cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Type II Diabetes
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Sleep apnea


  • Feelings of shame/guilt over their eating disorder
  • People with BED tend to report a lower quality of life
  • Often associated with symptoms of depression
  • (Compared with normal weight/obese control groups) Have higher levels of anxiety and both current and lifetime major depression

All information here was taken from NEDA: click here to visit their website and learn more. If you think you or a friend may be suffering from binge eating disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out to the resources below for help.

On campus:
Engemann Student Counseling Center’s “Eating Disorder Treatment” webpage
“Peace with Food” group: Mondays from 3:00-4:00pm
Counseling Center: call (213) 740-7711 to set up an appointment

Eating disorder risk screening
NEDA Helpline: call (800) 931-2237 between 9:00am-9:00pm Mondays-Thursdays, 9:00am-5:00pm Fridays

Recovery is always possible: click here to visit NEDA’s recovery page, which includes helpful tips for moving past your eating disorder and stories of success.

Check back tomorrow for our final post on non-specific eating disorders.