Binge eating disorder (BED) is eating larger amounts of food than what is normal. People with BED may not feel like they have control over how they eat.

BED may have features of bulimia or anorexia . This may involve inducing vomiting, exercising, or taking laxatives. But for others, BED can happen without these actions.


The cause of BED is unknown. It may be linked to problems with how the brain works. It may be a mix of your genes, way of life, and environment.

The Brain
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Depression may be a factor in binge eating disorder.
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Risk Factors

BED is more common in women. Your risk may also be higher for:

  • Obesity
  • Becoming overweight at a young age
  • A pattern of losing and gaining weight through dieting
  • Other mental health problems such as depression or obsessive compulsive behavior
  • Problems with anger or self-esteem
  • Prior abuse
  • Worrying too much about your body shape


The main symptom is eating large amounts of food over a short period of time.


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Binge eating is diagnosed when:

  • At least one binge eating episode a week for 3 months
  • Eating is more than what most people would in less than 2 hours
  • There's a lack of control over eating behavior
  • Binge eating causes major distress
  • 3 or more episodes of:
    • Eating faster than normal
    • Feeling uncomfortably full after eating
    • Eating large amounts when you aren't hungry
    • Eating alone due to feeling shame
    • Feeling unhappy or guilty after eating


BED is treated with one or more of these:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy —You will learn how to keep track of how you eat. Then, you can change your bad habits into healthy ones. This may also involve learning how to control situations as they come up. You will start to feel better about your body shape and weight.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy—A counselor will help you look the people in your life. From there, you can make changes that will help you rather than hurt you.
  • Physical therapy—To help ease feelings of depression. This may involve yoga or aerobics.
  • Medicines—Some antidepressants may be helpful for some people.


There is no way to prevent BED since the cause is unknown.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2018 -
  • Update Date: 08/31/2018 -