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Binge eating

Definition

Binge eating is an eating disorder in which a person eats a much larger amount of food in a shorter period of time than he or she normally would. During binge eating, the person also feels a loss of control.

Alternative Names

Eating - binge; Overeating - compulsive; Compulsive overeating

Considerations

A binge eater often:

  • Eats 5,000 to 15,000 calories in one sitting
  • Snacks, in addition to eating three meals a day
  • Overeats throughout the day

Binge eating by itself usually leads to becoming overweight.

Binge eating may occur on its own or with another eating disorder, such as bulimia. People with bulimia typically eat large amounts of high-calorie foods, usually in secret. After this binge eating they often force themselves to vomit or take laxatives.

Common Causes

The exact cause of binge eating is unknown. But for many persons, the disorder begins during or after strict dieting.

Call your health care provider if

Call your health care provider if you think you might have a pattern of binge eating or bulimia.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your eating patterns and symptoms.

Blood tests may be done.

Medicine is usually not needed for this disorder. The health care provider may prescribe antidepressants if you are anxious or depressed.

Talk therapy is often recommended. Individual, group, family, and behavioral therapy may help.

Biofeedback training may also be recommended.

References

American Academy of Pediatrics. Clinical report. Identification and management of eating disorders in children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2010;126:1240–1253.

American Psychiatric Association. Treatment of patients with eating disorders, third edition. American Psychiatric Association. Am J Psychiatry. 2006;163(7 Suppl):4-54.

Becker AE, Mickley DW, Derenne JL, Kibanski A. Eating disorders: evaluation and management. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, et al., eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 37.

Hay PPJ, Bacaltchuk J, Stefano S, Kashyap P. Psychological treatments for bulimia nervosa and binging. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009, Issue 4.

Marcus MD, Wildes JE. Eating disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 226.

Treasure J, Claudino AM, Zucker N. Eating disorders. Lancet. 2010; 375(7914):583-593.


Review Date: 2/26/2013
Reviewed By: Timothy Rogge, MD, Medical Director, Family Medical Psychiatry Center, Kirkland, WA. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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