Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is often misunderstood and difficult to recognize. When most people think of eating disorders, they imagine a skeletal fashion model or very thin teenage girls/adults. People normally do not know that ANYONE can have an eating disorder – even people who are average weights or overweight/obese.

It is important to realize that although eating disorder awareness efforts often focus attention on anorexia and bulimia, which are  conditions that often result in dramatic (and dangerous) weight loss, not every disordered eater is obsessed with self-starvation.

Binge Eating Disorder affects 3.5 percent of all women and 2 percent of men, making it the most common eating disorder. For BED sufferers, eating is often an out-of-control experience, causing them to feel powerless to stop eating or even slow the rate at which they are ingesting food. Binge Eating is often confused with overeating, and it’s important to understand the difference. Binge eating is not what families do at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner; it is not having a second dish of ice cream because it’s your favorite flavor; it’s not over-indulging in fried chicken while visiting someone down South.

Binge eating involves consuming a great deal of food, in an uncontrolled and/or rapid manner, and eating beyond the point of fullness. Binge eating is not motivated by physiological hunger. It is driven by psychological issues, such as fear of failure or rejection, unmet expectations, or feeling inadequate. Binges may be spontaneous or planned. Unlike bulimia, no purging is involved. Binge Eating Disorder can be hard to discover in others.

Because people with BED are embarrassed and ashamed of their eating habits, they often try to hide their symptoms and eat in secret. Many binge eaters are overweight or obese, but some are of normal weight. Here are some warning signs of BED:

Behavioral symptoms of binge eating and compulsive overeating

  • Inability to stop eating or control what you’re eating
  • Rapidly eating large amounts of food
  • Eating late at night
  • Eating even when you’re full
  • Hiding or stockpiling food to eat later in secret
  • Eating normally around others, but gorging when you’re alone
  • Eating continuously throughout the day, with no planned mealtimes

Emotional symptoms of binge eating and compulsive overeating

  • Feeling stress or tension that is only relieved by eating
  • Embarrassment over how much you’re eating
  • Feeling numb while bingeing—like you’re not really there or you’re on auto-pilot
  • Never feeling satisfied, no matter how much you eat
  • Feeling guilty, disgusted, or depressed after overeating
  • Desperation to control weight and eating habits

Do you have Binge Eating Disorder?

Ask yourself the following questions. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you have Binge Eating Disorder.

  • Do you feel out of control when you’re eating?
  • Do you think about food all the time?
  • Do you eat in secret?
  • Do you eat until you feel sick?
  • Do you eat to escape from worries, relieve stress, or to comfort yourself?
  • Do you feel disgusted or ashamed after eating?
  • Do you feel powerless to stop eating, even though you want to?

If you or someone you know is believed to have Binge Eating Disorder, please know that there is help and treatment available. Click here to learn more about BED and what options there are for recovery.

Information Sources: Eating Disorder Hope, Help Guide, ED Referral, Montecatini

You can also follow Binge Eating Disorder Week on twitter using hashtags #bedweek #bingeeating #dsm5 #eatingdisorder #ed! We will also be taking questions (option to remain anonymous) at the email address for our live tweetchat on May 29th at 12-1:00pm (EST)!