Binge-Eating Disorder Causes

It is not at all clear what causes binge-eating disorder. It's estimated that up to half of all people with the disorder have a history of depression, but it's not clear whether the depression is a cause or an effect of the eating disturbance, or if it's even related.

Most people with binge-eating disorder have a history of dieting, and many of them are in weight-control programs. So there seems to be some sort of link between dieting and binge eating, though it's not at all clear what that link is.

Researchers are also investigating if variations in brain chemicals or metabolism (how the body burns calories) could have anything to do with binge-eating.

Diagnosis of Binge-Eating Disorder

Binge-eating disorder is listed as a mental disorder according to the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition). According to the manual, the criteria for diagnosing binge-eating disorder are:

  • Overeating at least once per week for 3 months, accompanied by a lack of control and emotional distress.
  • The binges are associated with:
    • eating quickly, faster than normal
    • eating past the point of fullness; being uncomfortably full
    • eating large portions though not actually hungry
    • eating in isolation to avoid embarrassment
  • The binges are NOT associated with regular purging (vomiting, fasting or excessive exercise).

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 01 Jan 2001

Last Modified: 14 Sep 2015