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Binge Eating Disorder

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Binge Eating Disorder


Binge eating disorder is when a person repeatedly eats large amounts of food in a short period of time. The eating behavior feels out of control. If left untreated, it can lead to weight gain and other health problems.


The cause is not known. It may be linked to problems with how the brain works. Genes may also be involved.

The Brain.

Depression may be a factor in binge eating disorder.

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Risk Factors

This problem is more common in women. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Having other family members with this problem
  • Being overweight or obese
  • A pattern of losing and gaining weight through dieting
  • Having other mental health problems, such as depression or obsessive compulsive behavior
  • Problems with anger or self-esteem
  • Prior abuse
  • Worrying too much about one's body shape


The main symptoms are:

  • Eating large amounts of food over a short period of time
  • Eating feels out of control


The doctor will ask about symptoms, past health, and eating habits. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.


The goal of treatment is to end problem eating behaviors. It is also to reach and keep a healthy weight. Treatment may include:

  • Working with a dietitian to lose weight safely
  • Mental health counseling, such as individual or group cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Medicines to reduce binge eating symptoms


To help reduce the risk of eating disorders:

  • Discourage dieting or skipping meals.
  • Promote a positive body image in adolescents.
  • Encourage family meals and talking about healthy eating.
  • Focus on healthy eating rather than weight.




  • Berkman ND, Brownley KA, et al. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Comparative Effectiveness Review on Management and Outcomes of Binge-Eating Disorder. AHRQ Comparative Effectiveness Review 2015 Dec:160.
  • Binge eating disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/binge-eating-disorder.
  • Binge eating disorder. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/binge-eating.html.
  • Binge eating disorder. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/binge-eating-disorder.
  • McCuen-Wurst C, et al. Disordered eating and obesity: associations between binge-eating disorder, night-eating syndrome, and weight-related comorbidities. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2018;1411(1):96-105.


  • Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.