Important information about Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19): Learn More

NCQA Bridges to Excellence ICAEL

Binge-Eating Disorder 

Binge-eating is a disorder of eating.  It involves episodes of eating an enormous amount of food in a very short period of time.  People may feel out of control during binge-eating and guilty or depressed afterwards.  People with binge-eating disorder are commonly overweight or obese.  Treatment involves therapy that focuses on the emotional components of overeating, overall health and nutrition, and establishing healthy eating patterns.  Some people may be helped by medications prescribed by their doctor as well.

Back to Top

The exact cause of binge-eating disorder is unknown.  It appears that binge-eating may be an unhealthy coping mechanism for dealing with stress, depression, poor self-worth, or painful emotions.  Many people with binge-eating disorder have clinical depression or have been depressed in the past.  Some people find that their mood appears to trigger a binge-eating episode, while others state that they binge-eat regardless of their mood. 

New findings from research suggest that brain signal abnormalities may be a contributing factor.  It may be that too much or too little of certain brain chemicals affect the way that the brain processes thoughts and emotions.  Researchers think that some people may be genetically predisposed to eating disorders, meaning that they inherit an increased risk of developing the condition under certain circumstances.

Back to Top

People that binge-eat may feel out of control during an episode.  They may feel unable to stop eating or control the amount of food that they eat.  They may eat very fast and eat past the point of feeling full.  They may consume enormous amounts of calories, fats, and sugars.  People that binge-eat may eat alone to hide their behaviors or because they feel ashamed afterwards.
Binge-eating can have an element of bulimia; however, most people with binge-eating disorder do not purge.  Binge-eating is similar to compulsive overeating, however, people who binge-eat do not have a compulsion to overeat and do not fantasize about food. 
Overtime, untreated binge-eating can lead to serious medical complications.  Binge-eating can cause people to be overweight or obese.  It can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, gallbladder disease, and certain types of cancer.

Back to Top

A psychiatrist can diagnose binge-eating disorder.  Frequently, the loved ones of an individual who binge-eats recognizes the symptoms and helps the person access treatment.  The psychiatric evaluation may consist of structured evaluations or interviews with the individual and their parents, spouse, or significant others.  A psychiatrist could also identify co-existing conditions, such as depression, which commonly accompanies binge-eating disorder.  In some cases, a complete medical examination may be necessary to evaluate the general health of an individual.

Binge-eating disorder is classified as an “eating disorder- not otherwise specified.”  Binge-eating falls into this category because it does not meet the diagnostic criteria for any specific eating disorder.  In the future, researchers may formulate the exact diagnostic criteria for it.

Back to Top

Treatment of binge-eating disorder includes addressing both the physical and emotional health of an individual.  A foremost goal is to stop the binge-eating and establish healthy eating patterns.  Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help people develop new healthy behaviors, problem solving skills, and coping mechanisms.  Interpersonal therapy is helpful for analyzing your relationships with others and resolving issues.  Psychotherapy may include individual therapy, family counseling, and group therapy.  Nutritional education, structured meal planning, and healthy exercise instruction may be beneficial as well.  In some cases, mediations such as antidepressants can be helpful.  Overall, binge-eating disorder treatments are associated with good outcomes.

Back to Top


Copyright ©  - iHealthSpot, Inc. -

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit