For Health Care Professionals

The Roots of Binge eating disorder run deeper than food

If you're concerned about your relationship with food, talk with your doctor.

While the exact cause of B.E.D. is unknown, differences in brain chemistry, your family history, and certain life experiences may play a role.

Binge eating disorder (B.E.D.) is a real medical disorder

Binge eating disorder is more than overeating.

Among other symptoms, people with this disorder feel like they lose control over eating during a binge episode and are very upset by their recurring episodes. They may also eat in private because of feeling embarrassed by how much they eat during a binge. 

B.E.D. is the most common eating disorder among US adults. It’s more common than anorexia and bulimia combined.* So, if you’re concerned that your eating habits and behaviors are more than just overeating, know that you are not alone.

Talking with your health care professional is the only way to learn whether what you're experiencing is B.E.D.

*Based on 12-month and lifetime prevalence estimates among 2,980 US adults aged ≥ 18 years who were assessed for an eating disorder in a national survey. 


Questions you may have about binge eating disorder: 

  • Are there B.E.D. support groups or communities?

    There are several community-outreach and national and nonprofit organizations you can turn to for help. Check out a list here

    Discuss any concerns you may have about your eating with your doctor.

    If you're concerned about your eating, fill out a Symptom Checklist and take it with you to your doctor. Only a trained health care professional can diagnose binge eating disorder. 


  • Does B.E.D. occur only in people who are overweight?

    No, that may be a common misperception. Binge eating disorder can affect adults of all sizes: normal-weight, overweight, and obese. 

  • What are the differences between B.E.D. and overeating?

    Overeating during a party or holiday meal is not considered binge eating disorder, even though the amount of food may be excessive for a typical meal.

    Among other symptoms, B.E.D. includes:

    • Regularly eating far more food than most adults would in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
    • Feeling that one's eating is out of control during a binge, and feeling very upset about it.

Binge eating disorder is not a choice; it is a neurobiological disorder

The exact cause of binge eating disorder is unknown, but certain theories suggest that adults with B.E.D. may have differences in brain chemistry that could:

  • Interfere with the ability to regulate food intake
  • Create or increase the “wanting” of a particular food

Family history and certain life experiences may also play a role. 

If you are concerned about binge eating disorder, talk with your doctor. Only a health care professional can diagnose B.E.D. 

Facts about Binge Eating Disorder

fact1

Binge eating disorder can occur in normal-weight, overweight, or obese adults.*

*Based on a sample of 2,980 US adults aged ≥ 18 years who were assessed for an eating disorder in a national survey

fact2

B.E.D. is a real medical condition that was recognized as a distinct eating disorder in 2013.

Lifetime prevalence in Adults
More common than anorexia and bulimia combined

fact3

Based on 12-month and lifetime prevalence estimates among 2,980 US adults aged ≥ 18 years who were assessed for an eating disorder in a national survey

fact4

Binge eating disorder affects approximately 2.8 million US adults, according to a national survey.

Based on 12-month prevalence estimates applied to the full US population ≥ 18 years

fact5

B.E.D. occurs at a similar rate across non-Latino white (1.4%), Latino (2.1%), Asian (1.2%), and African American (1.5%) adults in the US.

Samples from combined data set of 3 nationally representative samples of US adults [non-Latino whites, Latinos, Asians, and African Americans]

fact6

Binge eating disorder affects both women and men. Based on percentage, two times as many women are affected as men in the US.§

§Based on 12-month prevalence estimates among 2,980 US adults aged ≥ 18 years

"My eating behaviors finally had a name. It is a real condition and I got help."

Peter, diagnosed with B.E.D.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF BINGE EATING DISORDER?

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Below is a list of symptoms that are seen in B.E.D.

B.E.D. symptom checklist

Symptoms of binge eating disorder are:

  1. Regularly eating far more food than most people would in a similar time period under similar circumstances
  2. Feeling a loss of control over your eating during a binge or over how much you are eating
  1. When binge eating you experience three or more of these:
    • Eating extremely fast
    • Eating beyond feeling full
    • Eating large amounts of food when not hungry
    • Eating alone to hide how much one is eating
    • Feeling terrible after a binge
  1. Feeling very upset by eating binges
  2. Have been binge eating, on average, at least once a week for three months
  3. Unlike people with other eating disorders, those with B.E.D. don't routinely try to undo their excessive eating with extreme actions like throwing up or over-exercising.  

Other factors could be involved based on your own personal experience. For that reason it is always best to talk to your health care professional for an individual evaluation.

"I thought, not another diet. Instead of putting a band-aid on something, it's about getting to the root of it."

Joanna, diagnosed with B.E.D.

Potential Impact of B.E.D. in Adults

Individuals with B.E.D. may experience some effect on their ability to function day to day. For instance:

  • Difficulty adapting to social roles (including the different responsibilities adults have as parents, friends, and co-workers)
  • An increased risk to personal health

If you’re concerned about your eating behaviors, fill out a Symptom Checklist and bring it with you to your next doctor’s appointment. Only a trained health care professional can diagnose binge eating disorder.

Fill out a B.E.D. Symptom Checklist

Completing a Symptom Checklist may help you and your doctor have a more productive conversation about your eating.

Please note, this checklist is not a diagnostic tool. Only a doctor or other trained health care professional can diagnose B.E.D.

B.E.D. Symptom Checklist Directions

  • Use the Symptom Checklist to organize your thoughts
  • Print out your checklist or download it to your smartphone or tablet
  • Share it with your health care professional at your appointment

The following questions ask about your eating patterns and behaviors within the last 3 months. For each question, choose the response that best applies to you.

During the last 3 months, did you have any episodes of excessive overeating (i.e. eating significantly more than what most people would eat in a similar period of time)?

NOTE: If you answered “no” to the question above you may stop. The remaining questions do not apply to you.

Do you feel distressed about your episodes of excessive overeating?

During your episodes of excessive overeating, how often did you feel like you had no control over your eating (e.g. not being able to stop eating, feel compelled to eat, or going back and forth for more food)?

Never/ Rarely
Sometimes
Often
Always

During your episodes of excessive overeating, how often did you continue eating even though you were not hungry?

Never/ Rarely
Sometimes
Often
Always

During your episodes of excessive overeating, how often were you embarrassed by how much you eat?

Never/ Rarely
Sometimes
Often
Always

During your episodes of excessive overeating, how often did you feel disgusted with yourself or guilty afterward?

Never/ Rarely
Sometimes
Often
Always

During your episodes of excessive overeating, how often did you make yourself vomit as a means to control your weight or shape?

Never/ Rarely
Sometimes
Often
Always

For a printable PDF of your responses to the B.E.D. Symptom Checklist, provide your e-mail below.

Get your B.E.D. Symptom Checklist:

Download a copy of your responses and be sure to share them with your health care professional.

You can also e-mail a copy of your responses.

*E-mail must be in the form of someone@example.com

Please keep in mind, we’ll never give out your name or e-mail address without your permission.

TALK WITH YOUR DOCTOR

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Binge eating disorder can be a sensitive topic, and one that you may hesitate to discuss with your doctor. Perhaps you tried bringing it up before and things didn’t go as you had hoped. Recently, there’s been increased awareness about B.E.D. as a real medical disorder. Now, health care professionals may have more information about the disorder and your options. Your health care professional team may include an MD, PA, NP, therapist, psychologist or nutritionist who will work together to help manage the disorder. Ask your health care team about ways to manage B.E.D.

How do you talk to your doctor about B.E.D.? You might say: 

"I read about B.E.D., could you tell me more?"

It may help to share the details of your binge eating episodes with your health care professional, such as:

  • How long the episodes last
  • How often the episodes occur
  • How much food was involved
  • What was going on in your life when the episodes took place
  • How you felt during and after

B.E.D. MANAGEMENT OPTIONS

For adults with binge eating disorder, there are management options available.

For some there’s psychotherapy (sometimes called counseling, psychosocial therapy, or therapy). For others, medication or a combination of therapy and medication might be appropriate. Types of psychotherapy may include: 


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • One of the most widely studied therapies used to treat B.E.D. It encourages individuals to regulate their eating habits by:
    • Setting realistic goals
    • Using self-monitoring when eating
    • Modifying negative self-perception

CBT may also help reduce the frequency of eating binges.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
  • IPT may be used for those who binge eat to cope with an underlying social problem. It helps individuals recognize this problem so they can better manage negative feelings without turning to food as a way to cope.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • DBT may be used for those who binge eat to cope with a painful emotional experience. It helps individuals develop skills to reduce binge eating habits.
Nutritional Counseling
  • Nutritional counseling may help reduce the symptoms of binge eating disorder. It may be used by itself or with other forms of therapy. Certain patients may benefit from following programs that focus on decreasing binge eating behaviors rather than weight control. 

Remember: Only a health care professional can determine which kind of therapy for B.E.D. is right for you.

Find Support

Find support groups or locate a specialist near you

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