Binge eating disorder is the most common type of eating disorder in the United States. People with binge eating disorder often feel out of control and eat a large amount of food at one time (called a binge). Unlike other eating disorders, people who have binge eating disorder do not throw up the food or exercise too much. Binge eating disorder is a serious health problem, but people with binge eating disorder can get better with treatment.
Binge eating disorder is a type of eating disorder. Eating disorders are mental health problems that cause extreme and dangerous eating behaviors. These extreme eating behaviors cause other serious health problems and sometimes death. Some eating disorders also involve extreme exercise.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, women with binge eating disorder feel out of control and eat too much (binge), at least once a week for at least three months. During binges women with binge eating disorder usually eat faster than normal, eat until they are uncomfortable, eat when they are not physically hungry, and feel embarrassed, disgusted, or depressed because of the binges. Women with this type of eating disorder may be overweight or obese.
Women with eating disorders, such as binge eating disorder, bulimia, and anorexia, have a mental health condition that affects how they eat, and sometimes how they exercise. These eating disorders threaten their health.
Unlike people with anorexia or bulimia, people with binge eating disorder do not throw up their food, exercise a lot, or starve themselves. People with binge eating disorder are often overweight or obese. But not all people with binge eating disorder are overweight, and being overweight does not always mean you have binge eating disorder.
It is possible to have more than one eating disorder in your lifetime. Regardless of what type of eating disorder you may have, you can get better with treatment.
Binge eating disorder affects more than 3% of women in the United States. More than half of people with binge eating disorder are women.1
Some women may be more at risk for binge eating disorder.
It can be difficult to tell whether someone has binge eating disorder. Many women with binge eating disorder hide their behavior because they are embarrassed.
You may have binge eating disorder if, for at least once a week over the past three months, you have binged. Binge eating disorder means you have at least three of these symptoms while binging:8
People with binge eating disorder may also have other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.
Researchers are not sure exactly what causes binge eating disorder and other eating disorders. Researchers think that eating disorders might happen because of a combination of a person’s biology and life events. This combination includes having specific genes, a person’s biology, body image and self-esteem, social experiences, family health history, and sometimes other mental health illnesses.
Researchers are studying how changing levels of brain chemicals may affect eating habits. Neuroimaging, or pictures of the brain, may lead to a better understanding of binge eating disorder.11
Learn more about current research on binge eating disorder.
Many, but not all, women with binge eating disorder are overweight or obese. Obesity raises your risk for many serious health problems:12
People with binge eating disorder often have other serious mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. These problems can seriously affect a woman’s everyday life and can be treated.
Your doctor or nurse will ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history. It may be difficult to talk to a doctor or nurse about secret eating behaviors. But doctors and nurses want to help you be healthy. Being honest about your eating behaviors with a doctor or nurse is a good way to ask for help.
Your doctor may also do blood, urine, or other tests for other health problems, such as heart problems or gallbladder disease, that can be caused by binge eating disorder.
Your doctor may refer you to a team of doctors, nutritionists, and therapists who will work to help you get better.
Treatment plans may include one or more of the following:
Most girls and women do get better with treatment and are able to eat in healthy ways again.14 Some may get better after the first treatment. Others get well but may relapse and need treatment again.
Binge eating disorder can cause problems getting pregnant and during pregnancy. Pregnancy can also trigger binge eating disorder.
Obesity raises the level of the hormone estrogen in your body. Higher levels of estrogen can stop you from ovulating, or releasing an egg from the ovary. This can make it more difficult to get pregnant. However, if you do not want to have children right now and have sex, you should use birth control.
Overweight or obesity may also cause problems during pregnancy. Overweight and obesity raises your risk for:
Pregnancy can raise the risk for binge eating disorder in women who are at higher risk for eating disorders. In one study, almost half of the women with binge eating disorder got the condition during pregnancy. The research suggests that binge eating during pregnancy may be caused by:16
After pregnancy, postpartum depression and weight from pregnancy can trigger binge eating disorder in women with a history of binge eating. Women with binge eating disorder before pregnancy often gain more weight during pregnancy than women without an eating disorder. Researchers think that weight gain during pregnancy may cause some women who had binge eating disorder before pregnancy to binge eat during pregnancy.17
Yes. Women who have recovered from binge eating disorder, are at a healthy weight, and have normal menstrual cycles have a better chance of getting pregnant and having a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Tell your doctor if you had an eating disorder in the past and are trying to become pregnant.
Maybe. Some medicines used to treat binge eating disorder can pass through breastmilk. Certain antidepressants can be used safely during breastfeeding.
Talk to your doctor to find out what medicine works best for you. Learn more about medicines and breastfeeding in our Breastfeeding section. You can also enter a medicine into the LactMed® database to find out if the medicine passes through breastmilk and about any possible side effects for your nursing baby.
For more information about binge eating disorder, call the OWH Helpline at 1-800-994-9662 or contact the following organizations:
This content is provided by the Office on Women’s Health.