Binge Eating Disorder

Individuals with binge eating disorders (BEDs) eat excessive amounts of food at one time, beyond the point of feeling comfortably full, without using any measures to compensate for the binging. They do this for two reasons:

  • They are very hungry because they have been dieting or restricting their eating in some way. The binge is a response to that hunger.
  • They overeat to comfort themselves, to avoid uncomfortable situations or to numb their feelings. The binge is an attempt to soothe themselves emotionally.

Symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Eating large amounts of food frequently and in one sitting
  • Feeling out of control and unable to stop eating
  • Eating quickly and in secret
  • Feeling uncomfortably full after eating
  • Feeling guilty and ashamed of binges

BED occurs in about one to five percent of the general population. It affects women slightly more often than men (about 60 percent women versus 40 percent men)[1].

People who binge-eat are often ashamed and embarrassed. They can be of normal weight or heavier than average. People struggling with BED often express distress, shame and guilt over their eating behaviours and BED is often associated with symptoms of depression.

Those who struggle with BED do not, however, generally try to compensate for their over-eating by vomiting, fasting, over-exercising or abusing laxatives as people with anorexia or bulimia may do. People who overeat compulsively may struggle with anxiety, depression and loneliness, which can contribute to their unhealthy episodes of binge eating. Body weight may vary from normal to mild, moderate or severe obesity.


In addition, people who binge eat may have a history of diet failures, and may also be obese. About one in five obese people engage in binge eating.

Health consequences of binge eating disorder:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol level
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Gallbladder disease

Treatment for binge eating disorder often requires less time than is needed to recover from anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Individuals usually respond well to one-on-one and group therapy. Medications for depression and anxiety have been shown to be helpful in some cases.

If you think you may have an eating disorder, contact our office to find out more about services available in the Ottawa Community.

[1] Smith, D.E., et al. (1998). Revalence of binge eating disorder, obesity and depression in a biracial cohort of young adults. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 20. 227-232.

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