Binge-eating disorder is a serious eating disorder in which you frequently consume unusually large amounts of food. Almost everyone overeats on occasion, such as having seconds or thirds of a holiday meal. But for some people, overeating crosses the line to binge-eating disorder and it becomes a regular occurrence, usually done in secret.
When you have binge-eating disorder, you may be deeply embarrassed about gorging and vow to stop. But you feel such a compulsion that you can't resist the urges and continue binge eating. If you have binge-eating disorder, treatment can help.
You may have no obvious physical signs or symptoms when you have binge-eating disorder. You may be overweight or obese, or you may be at a normal weight. However, you likely have numerous behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms, such as:
After a binge, you may try to diet or eat normal meals. But restricting your eating may simply lead to more binge eating, creating a vicious cycle.
When to see a doctor
Talk to your primary care doctor or a mental health provider about your binge-eating symptoms and feelings. If you're reluctant to seek treatment, talk to someone you trust about what you're going through. A friend, loved one, teacher or faith leader can help you take the first steps to successful treatment of binge-eating disorder.
Helping a loved one who has symptoms
The causes of binge-eating disorder are unknown. But family history, biological factors, long-term dieting and psychological issues increase your risk.
Factors that can increase your risk of developing binge-eating disorder include:
You may develop psychological and physical problems related to binge eating. Some of these complications arise from being overweight due to frequent bingeing. Other complications may occur because of unhealthy yo-yo eating habits — bingeing followed by harsh dieting. In addition, food consumed during a binge is often high in fat and low in protein and other nutrients, which could lead to health problems.
Complications that may be caused by, or linked with, binge-eating disorder include:
Preparing for your appointment
Treatment of binge-eating disorder may require a team approach that includes medical providers, mental health providers and dietitians with experience in eating disorders.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointments, and what to expect from your health care team.
What you can do
Write down questions to ask your doctor, such as:
Don't hesitate to ask questions at any time if you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Binge eating is similar to bulimia, another eating disorder. However, people with binge-eating disorder don't purge themselves of the extra calories they consume. That's why many people with binge-eating disorder are often overweight.
To diagnose an eating disorder, your doctor may recommend:
Your doctor may want you to have other tests to check for health consequences of binge-eating disorder, such as heart problems or gallbladder disease.
Criteria for diagnosis
Treatments and drugs
The goals for treatment of binge-eating disorder are to reduce eating binges, to improve your emotional well-being and, when necessary, to lose weight. Because binge eating is so entwined with shame, poor self-image, self-disgust and other negative emotions, treatment needs to address these and other psychological issues. By getting help for binge eating, you can learn how to properly lose weight and keep it off.
There are four main types of treatment for binge-eating disorder.
Behavioral weight-loss programs
When appropriate, weight-loss programs are generally done under medical supervision to ensure that your nutritional requirements are met. Weight-loss programs that address binge triggers can be especially helpful when you're also getting cognitive behavioral therapy.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Typically, treating binge-eating disorder on your own isn't effective. But in addition to professional help, you can take these self-care steps to reinforce your treatment plan:
Some complementary and alternative therapies, such as those below, may be helpful in achieving the goals set by your health care team.
Risks of herbs and dietary supplements
Coping and support
Living with an eating disorder is especially difficult because you have to deal with food on a daily basis. Here are some tips to help you cope:
Although there's no sure way to prevent binge-eating disorder, if you have symptoms of binge eating, seek professional help. Your primary care doctor or other health care provider can advise you on where to get help.
If you know someone with a binge-eating problem, steer them toward healthier behavior and professional treatment before the situation worsens. Here's how you can help:
Last Updated: 2012-04-03
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