What is binge eating disorder?

Binge eating happens when you eat larger amounts of food than normal in a very short period of time.

This condition is sometimes called “compulsive overeating” and can lead to a variety of unhealthy side effects, including:

For many of us, the occasional “binge,” is not a big deal: You’re busy during the day, so you skip lunch and eat too much for dinner, for example.

But for people who chronically binge eat, the habit can be hard to control and often comes with feelings of guilt and unhappiness. Like most eating disorders, these actions can be brought on by stress, anxiety, and depression. Episodes of overeating can sometimes offer temporary relief from these feelings.

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Understanding Binge Eating Disorders

While it might be normal to overeat from time to time, a binge eating disorder can be more serious. Signs that you have a binge eating disorder include:

  • Eating because you are sad, angry, lonely, or bored
  • Eating so much that you feel sick
  • Eating alone because you are embarrassed about how much you eat

For people with this disorder, episodes typically occur twice a week for at least six months.

Develop a Plan for Your Binge Eating Disorder

Don’t get discouraged after a binge. Instead, learn from it by developing a plan that will help you control your eating habits.

Begin by figuring out what causes you to overeat. Then, set measurable goals for yourself, and keep track of your progress by writing in a journal. Make a list of pros and cons, describing how you feel after a binge eating episode. Keep that list handy to prevent yourself from binging in the future.

Managing Stress

For many people, stress and anxiety bring about binge eating episodes. Finding other ways to manage stress can help you feel better about yourself and keep you from binge eating in the future.

Common ways to reduce stress include:

  • Exercising
  • Reading
  • Adopting a hobby
  • Talking to a friend or family member

Getting Help for Binge Eating

If you find that these techniques are not helping, or you think you could have a more serious eating disorder, talk to your doctor right away. Early treatment can prevent binge eating from becoming a more serious disorder. Learn more by visiting the UPMC Behavioral and Mental Health Services webpage.

About Digestive Disorders

UPMC Digestive Health Care cares for a wide range of gastrointestinal (GI) conditions and diseases, from diagnosis to treatment. Whether your digestive condition is common or complicated, our experts can help. Upon referral from your physician, we coordinate your testing and treatment. If you have a complicated condition, we can refer you to one of UPMC’s digestive health centers of excellence. Find a GI doctor near you.