Although most people with binge eating disorder (BED) are overweight or obese, binge eating differs from overeating. There is a greater concern regarding shape and weight with BED and a greater psychiatric comorbidity than there is with overeating. As such, there are different treatment approaches to BED than to obesity alone.
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
An essential feature of BED is recurrent episodes of binge eating, at least once per week for 3 months, without recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior typical of bulimia nervosa such as purging food or over exercising.
What is a Binge?
A binge is defined as 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 under similar circumstances. As well, there is 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). Read, “What to do about Binge Eating.”
Symptoms of Binge Eating
With BED there is a strong sense of distress after the binge eating episodes. Some typical behaviors include:
• Eating abnormally fast
• Eating until uncomfortably full
• Binging when not hungry
• Eating alone due to embarrassment
• Feeling disgusted or guilty after binging
Abnormal Eating Patterns
There also may be patterns of abnormal eating or unhealthy association with food that includes:
• Binge eating
• Grazing: compulsive mild overeating
• Objective overeating: overeating without loss of control
• Subjective overeating: mild-to-moderate overeating with a sense of loss of control
• Night eating: mild-to-moderate overeating only at 7pm (different from nocturnal binge eating)
• Emotional eating: overeating in response to uncomfortable affect
Treatment for BED
The primary treatment goal for binge eating disorder is fewer binge eating episodes. Treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy, as well as medication choices. Read, “Help for Binge Eating Disorder.”
For more information on binge eating disorder, visit the National Eating Disorders Association (BEDA) website or call their confidential Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
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