Binge eating is an eating disorder where a person feels compelled to overeat on a regular basis. People who binge consume very large quantities of food over a short period of time. Binge eating usually takes place in private with the person feeling that they have no control over their eating. They will often have feelings of guilt or disgust after binge eating. These feelings highlight underlying psychological issues, such as depression and anxiety.
Anyone can be affected by binge eating. Unlike anorexia where more women than men are affected, binge eating affects men and women equally. The condition tends to be more common in older adults than in younger people.
The symptoms of binge eating disorder usually begin in late adolescence or early adulthood, often after a major diet. A binge eating episode typically lasts about two hours, but some people binge on and off all day long. Binge eaters often eat even when they’re not hungry and continue eating long after they’re full. They may also gorge themselves as fast as they can while barely registering what they’re eating or tasting.
Behavioral symptoms of binge eating and compulsive overeating
- Inability to stop eating or control what you’re eating
- Rapidly eating large amounts of food
- Eating even when you’re full
- Hiding or stockpiling food to eat later in secret
- Eating normally around others, but gorging when you’re alone
- Eating continuously throughout the day, with no planned mealtimes
Emotional symptoms of binge eating and compulsive overeating
- Feeling stress or tension that is only relieved by eating
- Embarrassment over how much you’re eating
- Feeling numb while bingeing—like you’re not really there or you’re on auto-pilot
- Never feeling satisfied, no matter how much you eat
- Feeling guilty, disgusted, or depressed after overeating
Binge eating is a treatable condition, and a number of different treatment options are available. For example, treatments include:
- a self-help programme
- psychological therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- a type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
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