Binge Eating Disorder (BED) What is binge eating disorder?
Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the US. People with BED repeatedly eat a lot of food quickly in a way they can’t control, behavior known as binging. They feel guilty, shameful, or upset afterwards. Unlike bulimia, people with BED don’t throw up or exhibit other purging behaviors after binging. Binge eating disorder is not a choice or a vanity issue. BED, like all eating disorders, has complex neurological and biological underpinnings, which is why we refer to it as a brain disorder. While environmental and social factors play a role in eating disorder development, they are never the singular cause (nor is anything else). Rather, eating disorders emerge out of a “perfect storm” of factors.

Binge eating disorder signs and symptoms

  • Evidence of binge eating, including large amounts of food disappearing in short periods of time or lots of empty wrappers and containers
  • Any new practice with food or fad diets, including cutting out entire food groups like sugar, carbs, dairy, or meat
  • Avoiding eating in public or with others
  • Stealing or hoarding food in strange places
  • Frequent dieting, often without weight loss
  • Creating routines or rituals to make time for binge sessions
  • Social withdrawal
  • Weight changes, both up and down
  • Feelings of low self-esteem
  • Stomach cramps or other gastrointestinal complaints, like constipation or acid reflux
Common questions about binge eating disorder

As frustrating as it is, there is rarely one identifiable cause of an eating disorder, and binge eating disorder is no different. More often than not, it is a constellation of neurobiological and environmental factors: in other words, someone has a genetic predisposition to developing an eating disorder, and then the eating disorder is “turned on” by environmental factors. You can learn more about the causes of eating disorders on our blog.

As with all eating disorder treatment at Equip, the initial focus of binge eating disorder treatment is normalizing eating habits and stopping eating disorder behaviors. We focus on these behavioral and nutritional aspects first and foremost, because it's difficult for patients to make progress in other areas when they're actively engaging in eating disorder behaviors.

Disordered or erratic eating patterns can lead to malnutrition, regardless of a patient's weight or other medical signs. When the body is malnourished, the brain is, too. A malnourished brain doesn’t think clearly or take in new information well. People who are malnourished are more likely to be depressed, anxious, and have trouble paying attention.

Once patients have been able to normalize their eating habits and stop or significantly reduce their binge eating behaviors, the focus of treatment can shift to other areas. That might mean working on interpersonal relationships, setting goals outside of their eating disorder, learning to handle triggers in their daily life, or understanding potential root causes of the eating disorder.

To accomplish all this, our clinicians use a variety of different evidence-based treatment modalities, including CBT-E (a form of cognitive behavioral therapy designed specifically for eating disorders), DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy), and ERP (exposure and response prevention). For younger patients who live with their family, we generally use FBT (family-based treatment).

Though the specifics of a binge will look different from person to person and circumstance to circumstance, there are some defining criteria. A binge is defined as an episode of eating in which a person eats a large quantity of food while feeling a lack of control. This often means eating past the point of fullness until uncomfortable, eating extremely quickly, eating alone, and feeling shame after eating.

Binge eating disorder statistics and facts to know

  • BED is the most common eating disorder in the US, affecting roughly 2.8 million people in their lifetime.
  • Unlike other eating disorders, BED affects males and females fairly equally.
  • About 1.6% of teens and adolescents have BED.
  • Though BED is more common among people in larger bodies, it affects people of all body sizes
  • Nearly half of people with BED also also have at least one other psychiatric disorder.
Binge eating disorder is a serious condition, but it is treatable, and lasting recovery is possible. If you think your loved one might be struggling with binge eating disorder, finding treatment promptly is vital. Schedule a consultation.
Schedule a consultation
Our patients are getting better
After the first 8 weeks of treatment, Equip patients are well on their way to recovery
Average weekly weight gain for those who need it
8 in 10
Patients report a decrease in eating disorder behaviors
Of patients report improvements with depression or anxiety
My daughter's eating disorder seemed insurmountable, but Equip truly saved her. The coordinated support was incredible and it is so easy to schedule sessions. I wholeheartedly recommend Equip.
Dad of a 16-year-old with anorexia
I was pervasively hopeless about recovering prior to finding Equip and now I feel so optimistic about my journey for the first time ever.
45-year-old with bulimia
Equip was there for us day and night. Any time we needed help they held our hands and walked us through the darkness; all we had to do was trust their professional expertise.
Sister of a 19-year-old with anorexia
Equip was the best thing that ever happened to me. Interacting with a team that truly cared about me was transformational. Last year, I felt broken. Today, I feel whole.
33-year-old with BED
This has been the missing link on our journey. The convenience of scheduling; virtual options; complete team of providers; it is saving my daughter's life.
Mother of a 13-year-old with ARFID
I love the team approach that touches every aspect. Their positive approach has inspired my son to want to improve and take a lot of the initiative to do so himself.
Mother of a 18-year-old with OSFED
Concerned? Learning more is a great first step.
Dive deeper into food and body image topics by getting expert resources delivered to your inbox.
Learn even more about BED