Binge-Eating Disorder: Statistics, Causes, Signs, & Symptoms

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Education is an essential first step in the effort to heal from binge-eating disorder. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of binge-eating disorder can help you get the right type and level of care for yourself or a loved one.

Understanding Binge-Eating Disorder

Learn about binge-eating disorder

Binge-eating disorder, or BED, is a type of eating disorder. A person who struggles with binge-eating disorder will feel compelled to eat large amounts of food in a small amount of time, and will be unable control this behavior. In the aftermath of these binges, the individual may feel ashamed, guilty, or disgusted.

People who struggle with binge-eating disorder may eat more quickly than normal, may eat past the point at which they are comfortably full, and may feel an overwhelming urge to eat even when they are not hungry.

Eating binges can also be a symptom of bulimia nervosa. However, people who have bulimia will follow their binges with compensatory behaviors, or purges, such as self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives, or excessive exercising. Individuals who have binge-eating disorder will not engage in these types of behaviors.

It is important to understand that the symptoms associated with binge-eating disorder are much more serious than occasional episodes of overeating. For example, in order to meet the clinical criteria for a diagnosis of binge-eating disorder, a person must engage in eating binges an average of once per week for at least three months. Also, people who have binge-eating disorder will experience considerable distress due to their unhealthy eating behaviors and their inability to control them.

The negative emotional impact of binge-eating disorder can cause people to withdraw from friends and family members, thus depriving themselves of important sources of support. Binge-eating disorder can force people to eat in secret or to hoard food, behaviors that can prompt further isolation.

Thankfully, binge-eating disorder is a treatable condition. When a person who has BED opts to receive comprehensive professional care in a reputable treatment program, they can experience significant improvements in their quality of life. With the right type and level of care, people can learn to recognize triggers, respond to stresses and pressures in a healthier manner, regain control over their thoughts and behaviors, and overcome the urge to engage in eating binges.


Binge-eating disorder statistics

The following statistics about binge-eating disorder are from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD):

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for binge-eating disorder

There is no sole cause for binge-eating disorder or any other type of eating disorder. The likelihood that a person will develop binge-eating disorder can be influenced by a variety of internal and external factors, such as the following:

  • Having a parent or sibling who has struggled with binge-eating disorder
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Personal struggles with certain types of mental illness
  • Gender (binge-eating disorder is more common among women and girls than among men and boys)
  • Experiencing other types of trauma
  • Living in a society that places great emphasis on thinness
  • Enduring overwhelming stress or pressure

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of binge-eating disorder

A person who is struggling with binge-eating disorder may demonstrate a variety of signs and symptoms, such as the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Eating very rapidly
  • Continuing to eat until uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts, even when not hungry
  • Eating alone or in secret
  • Lying or otherwise deceiving others about eating habits
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Stealing or hoarding food

Physical symptoms:

  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Disrupted sleep patterns

Mental symptoms:

  • Obsessive thoughts about body size and shape
  • Feeling guilt or shame about eating habits
  • Problems with focus or concentration
  • Low self-esteem and poor sense of self-worth
  • Feeling unable to control one’s eating habits


Effects of binge-eating disorder

Without proper care, binge-eating disorder can cause considerable harm. The following are possible negative outcomes due to untreated binge-eating disorder:

  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • Hypertension
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Disrupted menstrual cycle
  • Social withdrawal
  • Family discord
  • Damaged or ruined interpersonal relationships
  • Development or worsening of co-occurring mental health struggles
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Pervasive sense of helplessness or hopelessness

It is important to note that you can avoid these outcomes, or begin to heal from past harm, by choosing to receive effective professional care. When you get appropriate treatment for binge-eating disorder, your life can get much better.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who struggle with binge-eating disorder

If you have been suffering from binge-eating disorder, you may also have an elevated risk for the following co-occurring mental health disorders:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Substance use disorders
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