Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is characterized by the regular consumption of significantly larger amounts of food than would normally be eaten within a short period of time (usually fewer than two hours), most commonly to reduce stress and relieve anxiety. Eating binges may occur as often as several times a day. Binge eating disorder resembles bulimia nervosa but differs from that disorder in that persons with binge eating disorder do not purge their bodies of the excess food via vomiting, abuse of laxatives or diuretics or excessive fasting or exercise.
Binge eating disorder affects about 2 to 5 percent of the general population and is more often seen in women than in men. Research has shown that binge eating disorder occurs in about 30 percent of people participating in medically supervised weight control programs.
Cause of Binge Eating Disorder
The cause of binge eating disorder is unknown. Because eating disorders tend to run in families, and female relatives are most often affected, genetic factors are thought to play a role in the disorder.
Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
Individuals with binge eating disorder often exhibit specific symptoms, such as:
  • Eating large quantities of food
  • Eating until they are uncomfortably full
  • A history of weight fluctuations
  • More difficulty losing weight and keeping it off than people with other serious weight problems

Other common signs of binge eating disorder are feelings of shame, guilt and depression, especially during the binge eating episodes; impulsivity; and engaging in risky behaviors, such as alcohol and/or drug abuse.
Complications of Binge Eating Disorder
The major complication of binge eating disorder is becoming overweight or obese. Many other medical complications that may result from binge eating disorder have the potential to become severe and even life threatening.

Diagnosing Binge Eating Disorder
Parents, family members, teachers and others who are close to an individual with binge eating disorder may be the one to identify the problem. A detailed physical exam, medical and social history and careful psychiatric evaluation contribute to the diagnosis. Laboratory and other tests, such as X-rays or cardiac evaluations, may be needed.
Treating Binge Eating Disorder
Early diagnosis and treatment of binge eating disorder are essential to avoid adverse effects on the body. Treatment is individualized and may include one or more of the following approaches.
  • Psychotherapy, whether provided in Individual or group sessions, aims to help change the thoughts and beliefs that led to the binge eating and to teach the affected person how to replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones and reduce binge episodes.
  • Nutritional rehabilitation plays a key role in helping to restore normal eating habits and good nutrition.
  • Medication (usually antidepressants or antianxiety medications, and sometimes an antiseizure drug) may be helpful
Families play a vital supportive role in the treatment process.


Our physicians at Houston Methodist specialize in managing binge eating disorders at the following convenient locations: