What is binge eating disorder?
Binge eating disorder is an illness that involves eating a lot of food in a short amount of time. The person with binge eating disorder feels out of control about how much he or she eats. More food is eaten than others eat in the same amount of time, under the same circumstances. It differs from bulimia. People with binge eating disorder don’t purge their bodies of the excess food via vomiting, laxative abuse, or diuretic abuse.
Who is affected by binge eating disorder?
People with binge eating disorder often:
- Eat large amounts of food
- Don’t stop eating until they are uncomfortably full
- Feel embarrassed by the amount of food they are eating
- Have a history of weight gains and losses
- Have more trouble losing weight and keeping it off than people with other serious weight problems
About 1% to 2% of the population have binge eating disorder. It’s seen more often in women than in men.
What are complications of binge eating disorder?
Complications from binge eating disorder include:
- Overweight or obesity
- Increased risk for:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Gallbladder disease
- Heart disease
- Some types of cancer
- Increased risk for psychiatric illnesses, particularly depression
People with binge eating disorder typically eat huge amounts of food at one time — often junk food — to reduce stress and relieve anxiety.
- Guilt and depression usually follow binge eating.
- People with binge eating disorder are at higher risk for depressive mood disorders, anxiety, and substance abuse.
Biochemistry and eating disorders
To understand eating disorders, researchers have studied the central nervous and hormonal systems. This system regulates many functions of the mind and body. It has been found that many of the following functions may be, to some degree, disturbed in people with eating disorders:
- Sexual function
- Physical growth and development
- Appetite and digestion
- Heart function
- Kidney function
Eating disorders and depression
Many people with eating disorders also appear to have depression. It is believed that there may be a link between these 2 disorders. For example:
- Research has shown that some people with binge eating disorder may respond well to antidepressant medicine that affects serotonin function in the body.
- Biochemical similarities have been discovered between people with eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and people with OCD often have abnormal eating behaviors.
Genetic and environmental factors related to eating disorders
Eating disorders tend to run in families, and female relatives are the most often affected. That is why genetic factors are believed to play a role in the disorders.
But, other influences, both behavioral and environmental, may also play a role. Consider these facts from the American Psychiatric Association:
- Most people with binge eating disorder are adolescent and young adult women. Yet this disorder can also affect older women and males of any age.
- People pursuing professions or activities that emphasize thinness, like modeling, dancing, gymnastics, wrestling, and long-distance running, are more prone to this disorder.