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People with binge eating disorder often eat an unusually large amount of food and feel out of control during the binges. Unlike bulimia or anorexia, binge eaters do not throw up their food, exercise a lot, or eat only small amounts of only certain foods. Because of this, binge eaters are often overweight or obese. People with binge eating disorder also may:
About 2 percent of all adults in the United States (as many as 4 million Americans) have binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder affects women slightly more often than men.
Researchers are unsure of the causes and nature of binge eating and other eating disorders. Eating disorders likely involve abnormal activity in several different areas of the brain. Researchers are looking at the following factors that may affect binge eating:
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, and not feeling a part of their communities.
People with binge eating disorder are usually very upset by their binge eating and may become depressed. Research has shown that people with binge eating disorder report more health problems, stress, trouble sleeping, and suicidal thoughts than people without an eating disorder. People with binge eating disorder often feel badly about themselves and may miss work, school, or social activities to binge eat.
People with binge eating disorder may gain weight. Weight gain can lead to obesity, and obesity raises the risk for these health problems:
Obese people with binge eating disorder often have other mental health conditions, including:
It may be safe for young people to be treated with antidepressants. However, drug companies who make antidepressants are required to post a "black box" warning label on the medication. A "black box" warning is the most serious type of warning on prescription medicines.
It may be possible that antidepressants make children, adolescents, and young adults more likely to think about suicide or commit suicide.
The FDA offers the latest information, including which drugs are included in this warning and danger signs to look for, on their website at http://www.fda.gov.
Yes. Someone with binge eating disorder can get better.
People with binge eating disorder should get help from a health care professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker. As with bulimia, there are different ways to treat binge eating disorder that may be helpful for some people.
CBT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the important role of thinking in how we feel and what we do. Therapy for a person with binge eating disorder may be one-on-one with a therapist or group-based.
For more information about binge eating disorder, call womenshealth.gov at 800-994-9662 (TDD: 888-220-5446) or contact the following organizations:
Content last updated July 16, 2012.
Resources last updated June 15, 2009.