Many people overeat, but a person with binge eating disorder (BED) frequently consumes unusually large quantities of food all at once while feeling unable to stop. Most become overweight or obese as a result of the excessive calories, but some can be at a normal weight. They all share the same compulsion to binge eat, unable to resist the urges and feeling a sense of losing control. BED is the most common eating disorder in the America, effecting an estimated 3.5% of women, 2% of men and 1.6% of adolescents.
Source: National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
DSM-V Technical Criteria for Binge Eating Disorder
1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:
- Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and similar circumstances
- A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g. a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)
2. The binge eating episodes are associated with at least three of the following:
- Eating much more rapidly than normal
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
- Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating
- Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed or very guilty after overeating
3. Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.
4. The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for 3 months.
5. The binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors (e.g., purging, fasting, excessive exercise) and does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.
Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-V, American Psychiatric Association
If your symptoms don’t exactly match the above criteria, but you know you are struggling, Binge-eating Disorder (of low frequency and/or limited duration) could be your diagnosis. All of the criteria for Binge Eating Disorder are met, except the binge eating occurs, on average, less than once a week and/or for less than 3 months. This eating disorder comes under the DSM-V category of OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder.)
Signs and Symptoms
A person struggling with BED appears uncomfortable eating around others and fears eating in public, withdrawing from their usual activities and friends. They frequently go on diets, including the latest fads and food practices. They create food rituals surrounding binges, hoard or even steal large amounts of food, and eat in secret. Evidence of binges include lots of empty containers and wrappers, as well as the disappearance of big quantities of food. They feel embarrassed, guilty, disgusted and depressed as a result of their binges, with low self-esteem.
Physical symptoms include fluctuations in weight, both up and down. They often experience stomach cramps and other gastrointestinal complaints such as constipation and acid reflux. Health risks of BED are mainly associated with clinical obesity and weight cycling (yo-yo dieting).
For a detailed list of warning signs, symptoms and health consequences of Binge Eating Disorder, visit NationalEatingDisorders.org.
What Do I Do Now?
If you are struggling with binge eating, the first thing you need to know is you are not alone. Literally millions of people worldwide are struggling with this issue, which is why you’ll find lots of videos about binge eating on our site.
- Seek community and support.
- Consider taking one of our Lasting Freedom self-study courses (not a replacement for one-on-one care with a professional).
We highly recommend finding a professional to help you work through your issues. For information on what to look for when seeking a counselor or therapist, read “Finding Treatment.” If you are interested in talking with a nutrition expert as well, check out our article on “Finding a Nutritionist.”
Additionally, read our articles “Overeating – Break the Cycle” and “False Beliefs: Overeating” for some helpful insights and tips.
Lastly, there are many good books focused on this problem. Some of the best we’ve found are Overcoming Binge Eating by Christopher Fairburn, and Crave: Why You Binge Eat and How to Stop by Cynthia Bulik. See these books and others in our Books section.
If you are trapped in the binge eating cycle, you need to know that there is hope. There are many people who have successfully broken out of the cycle of binge eating and have learned to be more balanced in their eating. Remember — you were born free, and freedom is ultimately God’s plan for your life. We encourage you to take whatever “next right step” you can to find that freedom.
“For freedom Christ has set us free…” Gal. 5:1 (ESV)