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What is Binge Eating Disorder?

BED consists of eating unusually large amounts of food over a short period of time.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder and 3 times more common than anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa combined2 and is just as serious. It can impact individuals of different cultures and ethnicities, shapes and sizes, identities and orientations, cognitive and physical abilities, and socioeconomic levels. Individuals with binge eating disorder may more frequently initially seek support for physical or functional impacts from bingeing behaviors or for issues related to mood or sleep than the disordered eating/bingeing itself. While individuals with binge eating disorder may often be in larger bodies this is not always the case and, therefore, weight, shape or appearance is not part of the diagnostic criteria for binge eating disorder.

What is a binge?

Eating unusually large amounts of food over a short period of time (around 2 hours) AND feeling out of control or that one can’t stop eating.

How is binge eating different from overeating?

Overeating can be a tendency to have an extra portion when already feeling full and most individuals have probably over ate at some point in their lives. Overeating can also sometimes be compulsive and does not reach the intensity of symptoms associated with binge eating, however, it can be as frequent as bingeing occurs once to multiple times per day.

Not everyone who overeats suffers from binge eating disorder or any other eating disorder. However, it is important to seek support if there are recurrent patterns of overeating, especially accompanied by feelings of being out of control, disgusted, depressed, guilty, and ashamed.

What is a binge?

Eating unusually large amounts of food over a short period of time (around 2 hours) AND feeling out of control or that one can’t stop eating.

What is purging?

Repeated engagement in behaviors in an attempt to lose weight/”undo” calories consumed. These behaviors can be in response to multiple types of feelings including guilt, shame, and embarrassment.

What are the types of purging?

The most common is self-induced vomiting (could be with a finger, toothbrush, on one’s own or other object, or by inducing vomiting with ipecac).

    • Laxatives
    • Diuretics
    • Enemas
    • Excessive exercise
    • Not using insulin as prescribed (withholding it or taking too much)
    • Thyroid hormone misuse

Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

Individuals with binge eating disorder often experience:

  • bingeing at least 1x per week for multiple months
  • Eating more rapidly
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts of food, even when not actually hungry
  • Eating alone stemming from feelings of embarrassment regarding how much one eats
  • Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after eating
  • Binges can occur in the daytime, nighttime or anything in between
  • Body image distress or dissatisfaction focused on size, shape, weight
  • Withdrawal and disinterest in values driven activities, changes in mood, periods of isolation, impacts on focus and concentration.

It is extremely important to note that individuals with binge eating disorder do not generally engage in behaviors such as purging including self-induced vomiting or excessive movement to “undo” binges or what they have eaten, however, sometimes individuals may experience involuntary vomiting related to the amount of food consumed during a binge.

As bingeing increases in frequency and/or intensity, individuals may experience physical symptoms that impact their functioning such as joint discomfort, low energy, sleepiness, bloating, abdominal pain, acid reflux, nausea, changes in cholesterol, glucose levels in the blood, blood pressure, liver and gallbladder function.

2 National Eating Disorders Association. (n.d). Statistics and research on eating disorders. Retrieved July 26th, 2022 from

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