Binge Eating Disorder

This information is useful for children and adults
Why Yale Medicine?
  • Our POWER program offers ground-breaking treatment for binge eating disorder.
  • We draw on expertise from doctors across departments to create a comprehensive treatment plan for each person we treat for binge eating disorder.
  • We use state-of-the-art technology to treat patients with binge eating disorder.

While everyone overeats once in a while, if you find yourself overeating at least once a week for at least three months, you may have binge eating disorder (BED). Binge eating is defined by two characteristics: eating an unusually large quantity of food during a short time period (two hours) and feeling a lack of control during each episode of overeating.

Unlike other eating disorders, BED is not necessarily associated with inappropriate weight control behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, excessive exercise, or extreme dieting or food restriction.

BED affects about three percent of adults in the United States. Population studies in the U.S. and around the world have found that more people struggle with than the two other formal eating disorders (bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa) combined.

The main symptoms of BED include recurrent binge-eating episodes and marked distress about the binge eating. The BED diagnosis (as outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, which is considered the official classification system of diagnoses in the U.S.) requires that binge eating episodes are associated with at least three of these five features:

  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Eating a large amount of food while not even hungry
  • Eating more rapidly than usual
  • Eating alone because of embarrassment over the quantity eaten or eating behavior
  • Feeling disgusted, depressed or guilty after the overeating

But unlike those with bulimia nervosa, people with BED don’t typically purge their food when they overeat or use other extreme weight control methods. Also, unlike those with anorexia nervosa, they don’t severely restrict their food intake.

Many, but not all, people with BED have substantial body-image concerns; this symptom is not required to make the diagnosis. Roughly half of people with BED are overly concerned with their weight and shape, which is a “cognitive feature” characteristic of eating disorders. This refers to evaluating or defining one’s self-worth primarily by weight and shape, rather than by other personal attributes or achievements.

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