What is Binge Eating Disorder?

06 October, 2020
Periodic binge eating can be a sign of a number of different eating disorders. Read on to find out more.

Binge eating disorder is a psychological disorder caused when the body’s mechanisms for controlling the appetite don’t work properly. What consequences does this have for people who suffer from it?

This condition causes someone to eat beyond any rational limit to the extent that it puts their health at risk. There are many different types of binge eaters; some eat excessively but eat all manner of foods, whilst others have a seeming addiction to sweets and sugar. But whatever they eat, one thing is for certain: their body composition will be significantly altered.

An eating disorder

According to research published in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, eating disorders have become much more common in recent years. Binge Eating Disorder is just one of them, although this particular disorder involves strong hormonal and metabolic factors.

Satiety is the body’s way of control appetite and it’s controlled by a combination of stomach distention receptors and a series of hormones that respond to changes in blood glucose levels. One of these hormones is Neuropeptide Y. When this substance is secreted (in the hypothalamus), appetite increases, as stated in a study published in Bioessays.

Normally, the production of this peptide is very precisely controlled. However, sometimes problems can develop which make the mechanism less efficient, which, in turn, leads to the appearance of disorders such as binge eating disorder.

Symptoms of binge eating disorder

To correctly identify this condition, we first need to look at the associated symptoms. Normally, people who suffer from this condition tend to worry excessively about food and are more likely to suffer from depression or loneliness.

A woman hiding in the bathroom to eat pizza.

At the same time, it tends to affect people who are overweight or obese. Eating excessively has an impact on the body’s composition and will lead to a build of body fat.

Furthermore, people who suffer from this condition often suffer from digestion problems, such as diarrhea, stomach pain, or flatulence. If you’re concerned that you might suffer from binge eating disorder, it’s worth considering whether the following signs apply to you:

  • You have been binge eating two or more times a week for at least six months.
  • When binging, you lose control of how much you eat.
  • You eat despite not feeling hungry.
  • You don’t stop eating until your stomach feels uncomfortable.
  • When binging you tend to do it alone.
  • You feel guilty afterward.

Possible solutions

It’s much easier to treat binge eating disorder if you catch it in the early stages. Furthermore, it’ll require help from a group of specialists made up of a dietitian, psychologist, and psychiatrist (sometimes sufferers require medication).

The dietitian’s job is to create a diet plan that makes you feel more full whilst still covering all your nutritional and energy requirements. There are many different ways of doing this, such as increasing your fiber intake or intermittent fasting. This will cause positive hormonal changes that can help to regulate blood sugar levels and satiety.

A man binge eating in bed.

Treat binge eating disorder early

As we mentioned, binge eating disorder is just one of a range of eating disorders. But it’s on the increase amongst young people.

The problem can often be the result of hormonal imbalances, though there can also be behavioral factors. Regardless of the cause, proper treatment will require early diagnosis and a multi-disciplinary team of specialists

If you’re concerned that some of the points we’ve mentioned apply to someone close to you, they might need to visit a specialist for a proper diagnosis. And it’s important to remember that proper nutritional education in the early years can significantly reduce the risk of developing eating disorders in later life.

As a final point, regardless of how much you eat, it’s important to establish an appropriate and healthy diet, based on fresh produce and as few sweets or processed foods as possible.

  • Saul JS., Rodgers RF., Adolescent eating disorder risk and the online world. Chil Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am, 2018. 27 (2): 221-228.
  • Nakamura K., Nakamura Y., Hunger and satiety signaling: modeling two hypothalamomedullary pathways for eneergy homeostasis. Bioessays, 2018.