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Here are the signs to differentiate between an occasional binge and an eating disorder.

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Have you ever walked away from a table feeling stuffed? Had a feeding frenzy that left you wondering how you managed to eat as much as you did? If that happens to you on occasion, it’s likely not cause for concern. But if you notice that you do this often, or there are other signs that your eating is out of control, you may have binge eating disorder.

What are the signs of binge eating disorder?

Almost everyone overeats on occasion, but binge eating disorder is a serious issue. The signs listed below don’t just happen once in a while, but rather occur on a more regular basis. Signs of binge eating disorder include:

  • Eating very large amounts of food within a short period of time
  • Eating much more quickly than normal during a binge
  • Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
  • Continuing to eat even when you’re full or not hungry
  • Feeling like you have no control over your eating
  • Often eating alone and in secret
  • Feeling ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating habits
  • Lying about how much you eat
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Frequently dieting but not losing weight

You may want to stop eating like this, but you can’t resist the urges you have to overeat. It is not exactly known what causes binge eating disorder, but research is currently being done to study how abnormal functioning in areas of the brain related to impulse control and the regulation of hunger and fullness contribute to the condition. It is not just about having a lack of willpower. In many cases, people with binge eating disorder need professional treatment to get it under control.

How common is binge eating disorder?

It is estimated that as many as 4 million people in the U.S. have binge eating disorder. It affects more women than men and people who are obese are at a higher risk. The disorder often goes hand-in-hand with depression. People with binge eating disorder may feel out of control in other ways, too. They may have experienced emotional or physical abuse, have addictions such as alcoholism or substance abuse, and/or come from families who put an unnatural emphasis on food.

Will you know if someone you love is binge eating?

Although some people who have binge eating disorder are overweight or obese, people with this disorder may be at a normal weight.  You may notice some of the signs listed above, but binge eaters often try to eat in secret and hide their behavior. If you think someone you love has binge eating disorder, start by having an open discussion with them about your concerns. Don’t judge but rather provide support and encourage them to get professional help.


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Date Last Reviewed: December 16, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RD

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