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Binge Eating Disorder Symptoms, Causes & Effects

At Alpha Weight Loss Center, we’ll help you to identify the obstacles that are preventing you from achieving your health goals. You’ll work with compassionate professionals to understand the signs and symptoms of binge-eating disorder.

What is binge-eating?


Binge-eating disorder (BED) is a type of eating disorder that is characterized by chronic compulsion to consume large quantities of food, well beyond the point of feeling full. Affecting both men and women, this illness will cause an individual to be unable to resist the urges to binge eat, which often leads to the development of feelings of shame, guilt, and disgust. Despite the negative feelings that arise, binge-eaters will often continue to eat even when they are not hungry. They may eat at a very rapid pace, while barely taking the time to even realize what they have just eaten. While those with BED eat typically want to stop binge-eating, they are often not able to without some type of intervention. However, with proper treatment those with BED will be able to reduce their binge-eating, improve their overall emotional health, and get rid of their excess weight.

Binge-eating disorder statistics


Research has shown that binge-eating disorder affects one in every 35 adults in the United States. This is the equivalent of approximately 3% to 5% of women and approximately 2% of men. Most eating disorders are more common among women, but the prevalence of BED is distributed more equally, with men accounting for about 40% of BED cases.

Risk factors and causes of binge-eating disorder

Researchers and other mental health professionals believe that in general, it takes a combination of a variety of factors, including genetics, emotional stability, and environment, to lead to the development of an eating disorder. Some of these factors are discussed in more detail below.


Genetic: It is thought that an individual is much more likely to have an eating disorder if his or her parents or siblings have one or have struggled with one in the past. Additionally, researchers have found a genetic mutation that they believe causes food addiction.


Environmental: Environmental factors can play a gigantic role in the onset and continuation of binge-eating behaviors. The pressure that society places on people to be thin and the shame that a binge-eater may feel from consuming excessive amounts of food may only lead to the continuation of binge-eating. Additionally, some parents may reward or comfort their child with food, which causes that child to see food as a source of comfort; then, when the children are faced with stressful life situations, they may begin binge-eating.


Risk Factors:


  • Family history of eating disorder
  • History of depression or substance abuse
  • Difficulties coping with stress, worry, anger, sadness, boredom
  • Being in your early 20s
  • History of dieting
  • Low self-esteem
  • Being the victim of ongoing criticism or bullying

Binge-eating disorder symptoms and signs

The signs and symptoms associated with binge-eating disorder vary from person to person, but often include a number of behavioral and emotional disturbances. Furthermore, some individuals may have obvious physical signs and symptoms associated with binge-eating disorder while others may not. Some of the most common signs and symptoms displayed in those with BED include the following:    


Behavioral symptoms:


  • Eating unusually large amounts of food
  • Frequently eating alone
  • Eating even when not hungry
  • Constantly eating throughout the day, regardless of the time
  • Frequently dieting, sometimes without any weight loss
  • Eating at a much more rapid pace than would be considered normal
  • Hiding food or food wrappers
  • Isolating oneself from family and friends
  • Going to great lengths to try to please others

Physical symptoms:


  • Heart problems
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Extreme feelings of fatigue
  • Sleep apnea
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Walking difficulties
  • Inability to engage in various forms of physical activity

Cognitive symptoms:


  • Intrusive thoughts regarding the need to be in control
  • Perfectionism
  • Rigid thinking patterns

Psychosocial symptoms:


  • Feeling that one’s behavior is out of control
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Having a difficult time talking about one’s feelings
  • Feeling disgusted, ashamed, guilty, or upset about one’s eating
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Never feeling satisfied

If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of binge-eating disorder

When not properly addressed, binge-eating can lead to a number of psychological and physical problems, many of which are the direct result of overeating or being overweight. Some of the complications that may be caused by or linked to binge-eating include the following:


  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Some types of cancer
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Irreversible health impairments
  • Decreased overall quality of life
  • Decreased life satisfaction
  • Impaired interpersonal relationships
  • Social role adjustment issues
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Why consider treatment for binge-eating disorder at Alpha Weight Loss Center

It is not uncommon for individuals who are suffering from binge-eating disorder to also be suffering from another mental health disorder. The following are examples of the many disorders that are known to co-occur alongside BED:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Adjustment disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
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