Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is medical condition that is marked by sufferers experiencing recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food, which they often do very quickly and to the point of discomfort. They might also feel a loss of control during the binge and go on to feel shame, distress or guilt afterwards. Crucially, and this differentiates BED from other disorders such as Bulimia, binge eaters do not usually take unhealthy measures such as purging or ‘throwing up’ afterwards to compensate.

Episodes of binge eating are sometimes alternated with periods of cutting down on the amount of food eaten. This can lead to a vicious cycle that is difficult to break – where blood sugar levels rise and fall rapidly so the brain receives false messages. These result in cravings for food the body doesn’t need.

It is estimated that BED is the most common eating disorder amongst adults in the US, affecting 3.5% of women, 2% of men and up to 1.6% of adolescents. Almost 8 million Americans are coping with Binge Eating Disorder.

Although BED can be severe and life-threatening, it is treatable.

Who suffers from this disorder

Put simply, anyone. The numbers of male and female sufferers are fairly equal, and range across all ethnicities. It tends to first develop in young adults, although many people do not seek help until they are in their 30s or 40s. It can impact a sufferer’s physical and/or mental health.

However, while the media and many in the medical profession are focused on the dangers of obesity, binge eaters are not necessarily obese – over half are a normal weight. And don’t forget many of us will occasionally overeat, it doesn’t necessarily signify BED.

These complexities mean you should only rely on a doctor or other trained health care professional to diagnose BED and determine an appropriate treatment plan.

Recognizing the symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

Various symptoms need to be present for your doctor to make a diagnosis of BED. These include regularly eating far more food than most people would over a comparable time period and under comparable circumstances, whilst not routinely trying to compensate for excessive eating with extreme actions such as vomiting or over-exercising.

In addition, a medical professional will try to see if three out of five other factors are also present before diagnosing BED. These range from eating large amounts extremely fast when not hungry, that take you beyond feeling full, to eating alone to hide how much you’re consuming and feeling bad afterward.

A diagnosis of BED can be described as mild, moderate, severe, or extreme.

While the exact cause of this condition is unknown, certain brain chemicals, family history, and stressful life experiences may play a role. There is also evidence that BED could be hereditary and/or linked to family genetics.

You can find more information on Binge Eating Disorder at

Note: The above Binge Eating Disorder (BED) criteria are for informational purposes only. They are not intended to make a diagnosis. Only a doctor or other trained health care professional can make a diagnosis of Binge Eating Disorder.