Binge eating disorder (BED) is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food (often very quickly). These episodes are accompanied with feelings of no control during the binge, as well as shame or guilt afterwards.

Binge eating disorder does not include regular episodes of unhealthy compensatory activities (e.g., purging) to counter binge eating. This is one of the differentiators between binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa.

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. Studies estimate that 2.8 million people in the United States suffer from BED. It does not discriminate by gender, age, ethnicity, etc.

The harmful eating habits of BED can have severe health consequences if left untreated. Professional treatment is available to help you or someone you love overcome binge eating disorder and achieve long-term wellness.

Diagnostic Criteria

Binge eating disorder is one of the newest eating disorders formally recognized in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition). Before 2013, BED was listed as a subtype of EDNOS (now referred to as OSFED, or “Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders”).

DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for binge eating disorder includes recurrent episodes of binge eating.

An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:

  • Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.

  • A sense of lack of control overeating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).

The binge eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:

  • Eating much more rapidly than normal.
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.
  • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry.
  • Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating.
  • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterward.
  • Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.
  • The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for 3 months.
  • The binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors (e.g., purging), and does not occur exclusively during the course of bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa.
Man sitting in front of TV in living room and eating popcorn

Signs and Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

Similar to other eating disorders, warning signs of binge eating disorder can be physical, emotional, and behavioral. Here are some signs to look out for:


  • Significant fluctuations in weight, both up and down
  • Stomach cramps and other gastrointestinal issues (constipation, acid reflux, etc.)
  • Difficulties concentrating or focusing on a task

Emotional or Behavioral

  • Disappearance of large amounts of food in a short amount of time
  • Stealing or hoarding of food in strange places
  • Feelings of depression, disgust, or guilt after overeating
  • Disruption in normal eating behaviors
  • Frequent dieting
  • Displays high-level of concern with body weight and body image
  • Frequently checking in the mirror for perceived flaws in appearance
  • Feelings of low self-esteem or self-worth
  • Fear of eating in public or around others
  • Appearing physically uncomfortable about eating around others
  • Eating alone out of embarrassment at the amount of food eaten
  • Withdrawing from friends and loved ones
  • Shying away from previously enjoyed activities

Health Consequences of Binge Eating Disorder

The primary implication of having Binge Eating Disorder is the ongoing maladaptive pattern of eating. As a result of this, the most common health-related side effects are weight gain and obesity.

Other health consequences of binge eating disorder include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Development or worsening of mental health disorders
  • Increased risk of arthritis
Adult sitting down with doctor explaining his symptoms

If you or someone you love is experiencing disordered eating habits, effective help is available. High Focus Centers provides a disordered eating treatment track to address these issues alongside other mental health symptoms. If you need more structured eating disorder treatment, reach out to Seeds of Hope, a Pyramid Healthcare program located in Pennsylvania.

To learn more about treatment options, or to simply have a friendly, non-judgmental conversation, contact High Focus Centers today.