In binge eating disorder, a person often eats an unusually large amount of food and feels that eating is out of control. Binge eating disorder often occurs with bulimia nervosa , another eating disorder that may involve purging.

In other cases, binging can happen without other eating disorders. For example, the person may feel upset about binging, but may not try to undo these feeling by vomiting, exercising, or taking laxatives.

It is thought that 4% of US population has binge eating disorder. Women are slightly at more risk than men. The illness peaks at 40-50 years old.


It is not clear exactly what causes binge eating disorder. Since about half of people with binge eating disorder have a history of depression , it is possibly related to that condition. Studies also suggest that people with binge eating disorder may have other emotional problems that can include: low self-esteem, anger, and/or obsessive compulsive behavior .

Risk Factors

These factors increase your chance of developing binge eating disorder. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:

  • Obesity
  • Gender: women
  • Becoming overweight at a younger age
  • Yo-yo dieting (dieting may trigger binge eating)
  • History of depression and/or substance abuse
  • History of sexual abuse
  • Preoccupation with body shape

Female Figure

Female figure 3D
Binge eating disorder is more common in females and is often linked to emotional or psychological issues.
© 2010 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Eating quickly
  • Eating until you are uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts when you are not hungry
  • Eating alone due to embarrassment
  • Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after eating


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. You may be referred to a mental health professional or eating disorder specialist. Binge eating is diagnosed when there are at least two binge-eating episodes a week, on average, for six months, along with a lack of control over eating behavior.


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

In cognitive-behavioral therapy , a mental health professional will teach you how to keep track of your eating and change your unhealthy eating habits. This may involve learning how to respond to tough situations and feel better about your body shape and weight.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy

In interpersonal psychotherapy, a counselor will help you look at your personal relationships and make changes in areas that are negatively affecting your life.


Certain antidepressant medications may be beneficial for some people with binge eating disorder.


There is no known way to prevent binge eating disorder. If you have young children, however, it is important to instill positive and healthy attitudes about eating and body image.