What is binge-eating disorder (BED)?

Binge eating is a disorder in which someone eats, within a certain amount of time, an amount that is definitely larger than most others would eat within that same time period. The person may have a feeling of loss of control during the binge. It is different from compulsive eating disorder in that the individual does not spend a lot of time fantasizing about food and does not have a compulsion to eat. A person can have binge-eating disorder alone or in combination with other eating disorders such as bulimia.
Mrs. Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

This is the diagnose criteria for binge eating disorder:

Both of the following must be present to classify as Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances
  • Feels loss of control over eating during binge. In other words, they feel that they cannot stop eating and they cannot control what they are eating and how much they are eating.

Also, an individual must have 3 or more of the following symptoms:

  • Eats an unusually large amount of food at one time, far more than an average person would eat.
  • Eats much more quickly during binge episodes than during normal eating episodes.
  • Eats until physically uncomfortable and nauseated due to the amount of food consumed.
  • Eats when depressed or bored.
  • Eats large amounts of food even when not really hungry.
  • Often eats alone during periods of normal eating, owing to feelings of embarrassment about food.
  • Feels disgusted, depressed, or guilty after binge eating.
  • 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 behavior and does not occur exclusively during the course Bulimia Nervosa or Anorexia Nervosa.
Dr. Thomas Hildbrandt, MD
Psychology Specialist

People with binge-eating disorder (BED) engage in compulsive eating and frequently consume very large amounts of food, such as an entire cake. They often feel out of control, have high levels of distress, and are preoccupied with dieting or weight loss. Despite this, most individuals who binge-eat are overweight or obese. Binge-eating episodes can be triggered by stress, negative emotions, or attempts at cutting back on calories or avoiding certain foods. The disorder affects individuals of all ages but commonly begins in adolescence.


Mrs. Eliza Kingsford, LPC
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is categorized by a few defining factors. The first is the consumption of large quantities of food in discrete periods of time. Large quantities can be somewhat subjective, however; think of this as an amount that is considerably more than what most people would eat within a similar amount of time under the same circumstances. Second, BED is characterized by a person feeling a loss of control while eating. They will often report feeling like they are unable to stop even if they wanted to. Many people describe starting to eat and then losing sense of time and place, feeling “zoned out” or disconnected from the experience. Third, people suffering from BED experience an overwhelming sense of shame and/or guilt after the binge. Often, the person will eat in private due to the shame they feel about their behaviors. Depression, guilt, embarrassment and disgust are all common feelings associated with binge eating behaviors.

Other factors are generally present with BED. These are things like eating more rapidly than most people, with an unnecessary sense of urgency; and eating without feeling physically hungry and far beyond the point of feeling comfortably full. Also, eating until feeling physically ill from the quantity of food consumed.
Sharecare Ad Target User
Administration Specialist
People with binge eating disorder often eat an unusually large amount of food and feel out of control during the binges. Unlike bulimia or anorexia, binge eaters do not throw up their food, exercise a lot, or eat only small amounts of only certain foods. Because of this, binge eaters are often overweight or obese. People with binge eating disorder also may:
  • Eat more quickly than usual during binge episodes
  • Eat until they are uncomfortably full
  • Eat when they are not hungry
  • Eat alone because of embarrassment
  • Feel disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating
About 2 percent of all adults in the United States (as many as 4 million Americans) have binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder affects women slightly more often than men.

This answer is based on source information from National Women's Health Information Center.
Dr. Vicki Berkus, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)
Binge eating disorder is in the list of mental health problems that is being considered as a psychiatric diagnosis. The major concern is involving a feeling of being out of control around a binge. The average binge is 2000-5000 calories and is defined as eating more food at one time that most people would eat. The part of the problem that most people don't understand is that the body can't use all those calories at one time and usually stores them. If people binge, they usually aren't eating out of hunger and it is important to find out the real reason for using food to numb feelings.
Binge eating or compulsive overeating may affect almost as many men as women. In the past, these individuals were sometimes described as "food addicts." They overeat (binge eat) but do not regularly try to get rid of the food immediately by throwing up or by misusing laxatives or enemas. Feelings of guilt may make it easier for the person to overeat again.
Binge-eating disorder (also known as compulsive overeating) is characterized primarily by periods of uncontrolled, impulsive, or continuous eating beyond the point of feeling comfortably full. While there is no purging, there may be sporadic fasts or repetitive diets and often feelings of shame or self-hatred after a binge.
Binge-eating disorder is a condition in which a person eats unusually large amounts of food, often in secret, with little or no sense of self-control. People with this disorder do not enjoy their binges. Instead they are often consumed with feelings of frustration, anger, and hopelessness following a bingeing episode. Binge-eating disorder is linked to a variety of mental health problems, including depression, low self-esteem, and disturbed sleep. As a consequence of over-eating, a person with binge-eating disorder may also experience health problems related to weight gain, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol.

Of all the eating disorders, which include anorexia and bulimia, binge-eating disorder has the highest incidence, affecting approximately 3 percent of the adult U.S. population.
Dr. Michele Borba
Psychology Specialist
Binge Eating Disorder is an eating disorder that is similar to bulimia but there is no purging (vomiting or using laxatives). Binge Eating Disorder is one of the three major medically recognized eating disorders.
Women with binge eating disorder (BED) also binge on large quantities of food in short periods, but unlike women with bulimia, they do not use weight control behaviors such as fasting or purging in an attempt to lose weight or compensate for a binging session. When the binge is over, an individual with BED will often feel disgusted, guilty and depressed about overeating.
Dr. Katie Rickel, PhD
Psychology Specialist
Psychologist Dr. Katie Rickel discusses the signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder. Watch Dr. Rickel's video for tips and information on mental health and eating behaviors.
Dr. Judi Hollis
Health Education Specialist
Watch as Dr. Judi Hollis discusses binge eating disorder.
Dr. Mike Dow, PsyD
Addiction Medicine Specialist
Watch as Dr. Mike Dow explains binge eating disorder, describes the symptoms and provides tips on how to treat it. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.