Overview of Bingeing

People who have binge-eating disorder binge like people with bulimia do, but they usually don't purge afterward. People who binge may purge occasionally, perhaps as often as once a week, but not regularly or frequently. Binge-eating disorder usually begins during the late teens or early 20s. Women are 1.5 times more likely to have binge-eating disorder than men. Most people with the disorder are overweight and have a history of dieting. Studies show that anywhere from 15 to 50 percent of people in weight-control programs have binge-eating disorder.

As with bulimia, bingeing (also spelled binging) is characterized by the following:

  • Eating very rapidly
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably stuffed
  • Eating large amounts of food without being physically hungry
  • Eating alone
  • Being embarrassed by the amount of food being eaten
  • Feeling ashamed, disgusted, or guilty about overeating

Unlike bulimia, where a binge is usually a discrete episode, people who have binge-eating disorder often binge continuously. Some people continuously eat large amounts of food throughout the entire day. In order to be diagnosed as an eating disorder, the binges have to occur fairly regularly and often (i.e., at least 2 days a week for a period of at least 6 months).

Many people with binge-eating disorder are disgusted with their bodies, have feelings of self-loathing, and experience depression or anxiety. They often suffer from concurrent major depressive disorder, substance-related disorders, and/or personality disorders.

Symptoms of Binge-Eating Disorder

Because most people with binge-eating disorder are overweight or obese, most of the physical complications associated with the disorder are ones commonly associated with obesity:

  • diabetes,
  • high blood pressure,
  • high cholesterol level,
  • gallbladder disease, and
  • heart disease.

The behavioral signs and symptoms of binge-eating disorder include:

  • missing work, school or social activities in order to binge;
  • for obese people who binge, a preoccupation with appearance or feeling bad about oneself;
  • avoiding social gatherings because of bad feelings about oneself; and
  • a feeling of shame and an effort to hide the problem (sometimes they are so successful that even close family members don't know there's a problem).

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2001

Last Modified: 14 Sep 2015