Binge Eating Disorder

This article is based on scientific evidence and clinical experience, written by a licensed professional and fact-checked by experts.

Posted: March 20, 2024

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

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Eating Disorder

“I am not even hungry. Why am I still eating?” “I find myself eating past the point of feeling full. I actually eat until I am so full it hurts.” “I often hide the packages of the food I have eaten. I am so embarrassed that someone might see how much I ate.” These statements are from real people who are suffering from binge eating disorder. Embarrassment, shame and guilt make it very difficult for a person to talk about their experience with this disorder. It’s quite possible that you identify with the statements above, and never realized others suffer in the same way. Fear of judgment and misunderstanding have kept you from sharing your struggles with others. It is my hope that through this article you find you are not alone and that others have walked down the same path.

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), 2021). The average age of first onset is 25 years old, and it is estimated that 1.25% of adult women and 0.42% of adult males are diagnosed with binge eating disorder (NIDDK, 2021). Often times, binge eating disorder is misunderstood and the term is used inaccurately. In the following article, you will learn more about this emerging disorder.

Signs & Symptoms

Binge eating disorder is a relatively new diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM). The first time it was included in this manual was in the 5th revision which was published in 2013. An episode of binge eating is defined by two characteristics: (1) eating more food in a short amount of time than most people would in the same situation and (2) feeling of a lack of control over eating during this time (American Psychiatric Association (APA), 2013). If these binging episodes occur at least once a week for three months, you could be diagnosed with binge eating disorder (APA, 2013).

To receive a binge eating disorder diagnosis at least three of the following characteristics need to be present during the binge episodes (APA, 2013):

  • Consuming food more quickly than normal
  • Continuing to eat to the point of feeling overly full
  • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling hungry
  • Isolating yourself when eating due to embarrassment of amount of food consumed
  • Feelings of disgust, guilt, or depressed with yourself after a binge
  • Treatment

    It is important to note that most individuals who receive a binge eating disorder diagnosis are also diagnosed with another mental health condition. The most common co-occurring disorders are anxiety disorders, ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression and substance use disorders (NEDA, 2023). Therefore, when treating binge eating disorder part of the treatment plan is also treating the co-occurring disorders.

    Treatment usually involves three areas: psychotherapy, nutrition management, and medication. There are three psychotherapies most commonly used to treat binge eating. They are cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy (Jones, 2024). Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to help those with this disorder to restructure their thinking patterns, identify unhealthy behavior patterns, and find healthier ways to cope (Jones, 2024). Interpersonal therapy focuses on improving relationships in the person’s life. Research has shown those with binge eating disorder have increased interpersonal issues (Jones, 2024). Therefore, working through these types of issues helps improve binge eating symptoms. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that builds emotional regulation, distress tolerance, mindfulness, and interpersonal techniques. Support groups are also highly effective in helping treat binge eating disorders.

    Nutrition management for binge eating disorder involves seeing a dietician and practicing mindfulness based eating. Weight loss is NOT the goal of this area of treatment. Weight loss programs are NOT effective in treating binge eating disorder. A dietician will help someone with binge eating disorder be mindful of hunger cues, fullness cues and mindfulness when eating (Jones, 2024). Developing meal plans that fit the person’s nutrition needs and likes as well as understanding how to listen to your body’s internal cues are also tasks developed in nutrition management.

    A primary care provider or psychiatrist may also decide to prescribe psychotropic medications to help with the symptoms of binge eating disorder. Medication is only one part of the treatment program and may not be deemed appropriate for everyone. Therefore, make sure to speak to your health care provider and give them the most accurate information about your mental and physical health symptoms.


    Similar to other eating disorders, there are multiple causes to binge eating disorder. Heredity and environmental factors play a role in development of this disorder. A person’s thoughts and feelings about their body and weight contribute to binge eating disorder. Unhealthy ways of dieting are also contributors to the progression of this diagnosis. While experiencing one of the above risk factors does not guarantee a future diagnosis, struggling with multiple risk factors increases the possibility of binge eating disorder.


    Prevention of binge eating disorder starts with your relationship with your body. Those diagnosed with this disorder most often have a long history of detesting and even hating their bodies. Improving the relationship you have with your body may entail working toward nonjudgmental thoughts; having compassion rather than disgust. Your body holds the trauma you experience, so it will also look like working through your trauma. If you have other mental health or physical health diagnoses, taking care of your body is receiving adequate care for them.

    Your support network serves as a prevention against binge eating disorder. As mentioned above, studies have shown that those with this diagnosis may struggle with interpersonal relationships (Jones, 2024). Therefore, building and maintaining a support network can be helpful in combating risk factors to binge eating disorder. A support network can be made up of lay persons such as family, friends, coworkers, and church family. It can also include professionals such as a support group, counselor, psychiatrist, primary care physician, and dietician. Each person’s support network will look different, but what is important is that you have one and you check in with them often.

    While binge eating disorder is the most common type of eating disorder, there are steps you can take toward prevention and recovery. Some of the most important steps are building trusted people around you and working toward a healthier relationship with your body. If you believe you may be struggling with binge eating disorder, please contact us at My Counselor we have counselors who know how to help you.

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    This article is based on scientific evidence and clinical experience, written by a licensed professional and fact-checked by experts.

    About the Author
    September Trent
    September Trent

    September Trent MS, LPC has a Masters in Counseling. She is also an Attachment Focused EDMR therapist trained by the Parnell Institute. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), holding her license in Missouri.

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