Diet and Nutrition

What is Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?

What is Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?

Binge Eating Disorder, which is abbreviated as BED is an eating condition which is marked with recurring periods of quickly eating too much food, thus making one feel uncomfortable. A person with this condition lacks self-control during the binge episodes and afterwards feels ashamed, distressed and guilty. In an effort to avoid binge eating, a person with the disorder may use unhealthy ways such as purging. People with BED may commonly be physically disabled, have high chances of committing suicide, and may have simultaneous and frequently occurring mental problems.

Being the most prominent eating abnormality in the US, 3.5% of women 2% of men and at most 1.6% of adolescents in the country have BED.

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The May 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, includes Binge Eating Disorder in the category of diagnosable eating disorders. Previously in the DSM-IV of 1994, BED had been put under the Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified subcategory. BED has been made significant by being fully identified as an eating disorder because for a person with an eating disorder to be covered by some insurance companies, a DSM diagnosis is mandatory.


  • a choice
  • lack of willpower
  • an  indication of  failure
  • eating excessively during  holiday meal or special event

BED is different from obesity             

Although approximately 70 % of people with BED also suffer from obesity, not all BED victims are obese.  Losing of weight doesn’t cure BED. Actually, recommending ways of losing weight further worsens the condition and the victim becomes extremely ashamed and this leads to increased weight.

Although obesity is not an eating condition, some people gain excess weight due to emotional issues which may be caused by being overweight.


Symptoms of BED and criteria for Diagnosis

The criteria for binge eating disorder diagnosis are listed in the DSM-5 which was published in 2013.

Recurring periods of binge eating.

A binge eating period is marked by:  

  • Eating at short time intervals such as after every 2 hours. The amount eaten is normally higher than what a normal person would eat in the same period of time under the same situation.
  • Feeling loss of control during the binges such as the inability to cease eating or to control the amount of food intake.

At least three of the following occur during  binge eating episodes:

   1. Eating abnormally faster.

   2. Excessive eating leading to discomfort.

   3. Eating too much food even in absence of hunger.

   4. Isolation while eating due to being ashamed about the overeating.

After over-eating, the victims experience depression, extreme guilt and become angry with themselves. The victim becomes distressed about binge eating. On average, binge episodes occur not less than once in every week for three months. Unlike in Bulimia, the recurring use of unhealthy compensatory habits such as purging is not relevant in binge eating.

Characteristics of Binge Eating Disorder

Besides the criteria for the diagnosis of BED, people suffering from the disorder may show the below characteristics which are related to their behaviors, emotions and physical aspects. Not all individuals with BED will have the related characteristics and not all people showing the characteristics are having BED. However, these can serve as a reference in studying BED behaviors and susceptibility.   


Characteristics of behaviors

  • Binge eating indication such as a lot of food disappearing rapidly or many empty wrappers and dishes showing high food intake.
  • Concealed eating habits such as isolation while eating, and stealing, concealing or  preserving food. 
  • Abnormal  eating behaviors, including eating all day even when not hungry, avoiding to take meals or taking bits of food during the usual meals; irregular  fasting or recurrent dieting; and having food rites (such as eating only specific food).
  • There may be serious and inflexible food limitation and irregular dieting with or without fasting.
  • Episodes of uncontrollable, spontaneous and persistent eating until one becomes uncomfortably full. Purging is however excluded.


Characteristics Of the Emotions And Mind

  • Feeling angry, anxious, valueless or shameful after binge eating. The victim starts to binge in order to reduce tension or to avoid feeling bad.
  • Various conditions such as depression may occur simultaneously. Binge eaters may also isolate themselves from other people, become anxious and irritated.  
  • Victims feel angry with the size of their bodies. Binge eaters may have people making negative comments about their bodies as they were growing up. 
  • Victims avoid disagreements.

The following perceived patterns and individuals' characteristics are related to BED:

  1. Rigid thinking
  2. Wanting too much control
  3. Not easy to convey feelings and needs
  4. Perfectionism
  5. Striving to please other people


Physical traits

  • The weight of the body changes from being healthy to slightly, moderately or severely obsessed.
  • BED may or may not be characterized by increased weight.  


People With BED and Their Statistics

BED is the most prominent eating condition in the US. Approximately 1% to 5% of the overall population has the disorder. 3.5% of women, 2% of men and at most 1.6% of teenagers have BED.

Statistical Information

  • Women are usually slightly more susceptible to binge eating than men—females account for 60% of total people with BED while 40% are male.
  • BED mostly affects women in their early adulthood while men are usually affected by the disorder in their mid ages.
  • Any person, regardless of their cultural background, can have BED.


Impacts Of Binge Eating Disorder 

Individuals with BED will most likely be depressed, anxious, and ashamed. They may also have Comorbid conditions (either physical, psychological or both) because of the impacts of the disorder or as a result of another major cause.  

a) Physical Impacts

Majority of people suffering from obesity are affected by BED. Nevertheless, a maximum of two out of three people suffering from BED are usually heavier than normal or have normal weight.

The binge eating disorder health dangers are those related to clinical obesity. Possible BED health impacts include the following: 

b) Psychological consequences

  • Individuals with BED are often distressed, ashamed and guilty about how they eat.
  • A person with BED lives worse than an individual who doesn’t have the condition.
  • Binge eating disorder is usually related to depression symptoms.
  • Individuals suffering from BED are more anxious and a have major depression that affects their whole life than people with average weight or obese control groups.

Treatment of BED

There are proven methods of treating Binge Eating Disorder such as particular types of cognitive behavioral therapy, Interpersonal Psychotherapy, Dialectical behavior therapy and use of drugs.

All forms of treatment must be analyzed on the basis of the nature of their risks, advantages and options. The mode of treatment should be prescribed by a trained medical expert and a specialist of treating disorders.

Kindly visit the database of NEDA’S Treatment Options to get a BED treatment specialist.


Stigmatization of BED victims

Many individuals with BED assert that the disease is usually not understood and stigmatized. The public need to be thoroughly informed that BED is an actual condition that shouldn’t be mistaken for infrequent overeating. This will give people with binge eating disorder a chance to be treated, supported as well as get the necessary resources to help them recover. 

Thank you for reading this article.