Many people overindulge occasionally, but impulsively consuming large quantities of food on a frequent basis is a serious mental disorder. Known as binge eating, emotional overeating can have serious health consequences, including death in severe cases.

Diagnosis

One of the newest formally recognized eating disorders, binge eating is more common than anorexia and bulimia, equally affecting both men an women of all ages, including children. It is characterized by the following criteria:

  • Eating abnormally large amounts of food in a short time period.
  • A lack of control and inability to stop eating when full
  • Feelings of embarrassment and disgust

In order to be officially diagnosed with binge eating disorder, the affected typically must demonstrate a lack of compensatory behaviors, such as purging, which is more indicative of other eating disorders, and the episodes of binge eating must occur at least once a week for 3 months or longer.

What’s the Difference?

Anorexia and bulimia are less common than binge eating disorder but can share the same symptoms, especially bulimia.

Anorexia is characterized by a lack of appetite and a strong desire to lose weight through the refusal to eat.

Bulimia is characterized by extreme bouts of overeating followed by periods of purging through self-induced vomiting, purging and fasting, which are absent in binge eating disorder.

Severe body dysmorphia or a distorted body image are common symptoms of both anorexia and bulimia, but are generally absent in binge eating as well.

Treatments

Treatments include therapy, education and some antidepressant medications. Binge eating behavior can be accompanied by other mental illness symptoms, most commonly depression, which can make the disorder difficult to assess and treat properly.

Because of its relatively new classification as a formal disorder, there is a critical need for better treatment options for binge eating. If you would like to be a part of a clinical trial, please apply here. Your participation could make a significant impact on the development of better medications and therapies.