People with binge eating disorder are embarrassed and ashamed of their eating habits, so they often try to hide their symptoms and eat in secret. Many binge eaters are overweight or obese, but some are of normal weight.
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
- Desperation to control weight and eating habits
If you have binge eating disorder, you:
- Eat an extremely large amount of food within a 2-hour period (a binge) at least 2 times a week on average for at least 6 months.
- Feel unable to control how much you eat during a binge.
- Feel very unhappy about binging.
If you have binge eating disorder, you also have three (or more) of the following symptoms:
- You eat more quickly than normal during a binge.
- You eat until you are painfully full.
- You binge when you are not hungry, to reduce stress or to comfort yourself.
- You eat alone because you are embarrassed about how much food you eat.
- You feel upset, guilty, or depressed after a binge.
Common personality traits found in those who have binge eating disorder and other eating disorders include excessive concern about body size and shape, low self-esteem, and depression.
Binge eating disorder is different from bulimia, because people with binge eating disorder do not regularly vomit or use other ways to get rid of calories. For more information on bulimia, which also is called “binge-purge disorder,” see the topic Bulimia Nervosa.
Some people eat very little during the day but eat very large amounts of food in the evening and at night. This is called night eating syndrome.
Many people who have an eating disorder also struggle with depression or anxiety disorders. It can be difficult to treat binge eating disorder if these other conditions are not also treated.
Frequent binge eating can cause you to gain a large amount of weight, even though you might try to restrict your food intake between binges. People with binge eating disorder often try to follow strict diets. But dieting does not stop the binging for the long term and might actually make the problem worse.
You might feel so discouraged at times that you stop trying to control your eating disorder altogether. One binge might merge into the next, with no period of normal eating in between.
Although you might not have all of the symptoms of binge eating disorder, even a few symptoms can be a sign of a problem that needs treatment. If you have any of these symptoms, or someone you know does, talk to a doctor, friend, or family member about your concerns right away.
Signs of binge eating disorder
Ask yourself the following questions. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you have binge eating disorder.
- Do you feel out of control when you’re eating?
- Do you think about food all the time?
- Do you eat in secret?
- Do you eat until you feel sick?
- Do you eat to escape from worries, relieve stress, or to comfort yourself?
- Do you feel disgusted or ashamed after eating?
- Do you feel powerless to stop eating, even though you want to?