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Binge Eating Disorder

What Is Binge Eating Disorder?

Most people have had times when they ate too much, especially during a special occasion or holiday. Binge eating disorder is different.

You feel like you can't stop, even if you're already uncomfortably full. You may eat a lot, quickly, even if you're not hungry. You feel ashamed about it. Unlike bulimia, you don't try to make yourself throw up or exercise a lot after a binge.

You can overcome that out-of-control feeling with treatment. Talking with a specialist (such as a psychiatrist or psychologist) who treats people with eating disorders is key. For some people, taking medication also helps.

It helps to have emotional support from family and friends, too. Their backing makes it easier to change the way you think about food.

Causes

Experts don't know why some people develop binge eating disorder. It's more common in women than in men. In the U.S. about 3.5% of women (5.6 million) and 2% of men (3.1 million) have it.

People who are obese are at a higher risk of getting binge eating disorder, although people of normal weight can also get it. About two of every three people in the U.S. who have the condition are obese.

If you have binge eating disorder, you may have trouble handling your emotions or feel out of control in other ways. You may use food as a way to comfort or reward yourself. Skipping meals and other severe dieting may trigger a backlash of binge eating.

The disorder often goes hand-in-hand with depression. Researchers are studying whether brain chemicals or metabolism (the way your body uses food) play roles.

The disorder also runs in some families. Women are more likely than men to have it.

Some people with binge eating disorder have gone through emotional or physical abuse, or had addictions, such as alcoholism. If that sounds like you, getting help with those issues will be part of getting better.

Symptoms

If you have binge eating disorder, you:

  • Eat more food than other people do in the same situation.
  • Feel like you can't control how much you eat.
  • Feel upset after you binge.
  • Have an eating binge at least once a week for 3 months, on average.
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