Binge eating also occurs in another eating disorder called bulimia nervosa. Persons with bulimia nervosa, however, usually purge, fast, or do strenuous exercise after they binge eat. Purging means vomiting or using a lot of diuretics (water pills) or laxatives to keep from gaining weight. Fasting is not eating for at least 24 hours. Strenuous exercise, in this case, means exercising for more than an hour just to keep from gaining weight after binge eating. Purging, fasting, and overexercising are dangerous ways to try to control your weight.
Binge eating disorder is a newly recognized condition that probably affects millions of Americans. People with binge eating disorder frequently eat large amounts of food while feeling a loss of control over their eating. This disorder is different from binge-purge syndrome (bulimia nervosa) because people with binge eating disorder usually do not purge afterward by vomiting or using laxatives.
Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
When you have binge-eating disorder, sometimes called compulsive overeating, you regularly eat excessive amounts of food (binge). A binge is considered eating a larger amount of food than most people would eat under similar situations. For instance, you may eat 10,000 to 20,000 calories worth of food during a binge, while someone following a normal diet may eat 1,500 to 3,000 calories in a day.
Children and teens who sometimes eat a lot don’t necessarily have binge eating disorder. Kids can have huge appetites, especially during growth spurts, when they need more nutrients to fuel their growing bodies. So it can be difficult to determine whether a child has binge eating disorder. But several signs distinguish someone who binge eats from someone with a “healthy appetite.”
Binge eating symptoms are also present in bulimia nervosa. The formal diagnosis criteria are similar in that subjects must binge at least twice per week for a minimum period of three months. Unlike in bulimia, those with BED do not purge, fast or engage in strenuous exercise after binge eating. Additionally, bulimics are typically of normal weight, are underweight but have been overweight before, or slightly overweight, whereas those with binge eating disorder are typically overweight or obese.
Causes of Binge Eating Disorder
There is no single cause for eating disorders. Although concerns about weight and body shape play a role in all eating disorders, the actual cause of these disorders appear to result from many factors, including cultural and family pressures and emotional and personality disorders. Genetics and biologic factors may also play a role.
The causes of binge eating disorder are still unknown. Up to half of all people with binge eating disorder have a history of depression. Whether depression is a cause or effect of binge eating disorder is unclear. It may be unrelated. Many people report that anger, sadness, boredom, anxiety or other negative emotions can trigger a binge episode.
Impulsive behavior and certain other psychological problems may be more common in people with binge eating disorder.
Biological vulnerability may play a role in developing binge-eating disorder. Both genes and brain chemicals may be involved. In addition, researchers are studying appetite regulation of the central nervous system for clues, along with gastrointestinal changes that might shed light on causes.
Certain behaviors and emotional problems are more common in people with binge eating disorder. These include abusing alcohol, acting quickly without thinking (impulsive behavior), not feeling in charge of themselves, not feeling a part of their communities, and not noticing and talking about their feelings.