Binge-eating disorder, also known as “compulsive eating,” is a serious condition in which you compulsively consume unusually large amounts of food. Almost everyone overeats on occasion, but for some people, excessive overeating with a perceived loss of control becomes a regular occurrence that crosses the line into binge-eating disorder. When you have binge-eating disorder, you may be embarrassed about overeating and vow to stop—but you feel such a compulsion that you can’t resist the urges. This is the most common eating disorder in the United States. Many people who eat compulsively are overweight or obese, but this condition can occur in individuals whose weight is normal.
Symptoms of binge-eating disorder include:
- Compulsions to eat even when you don’t want to
- Eating in secret
- Starting radical diets to compensate for binge eating sessions
- Shame and guilt after eating
- Eating large amounts of food for extended periods
- Eating to the point of physical discomfort
- Eating very rapidly during a binge
Some people who binge eat will try to purge afterward by vomiting. This is a separate condition known as bulimia-nervosa and should be treated as a separate condition.
Treating Compulsive Eating
The medical community cannot pinpoint the precise causes of compulsive eating, but some studies suggest that there could be a genetic predisposition. Many people who have this disorder often begin to exhibit signs and symptoms of it in adolescence. Understanding how and why this disorder occurs can help psychotherapists examine the triggers that lead a person to eat compulsively.
Typically, psychiatrists or other mental health therapists will recommend interpersonal therapy for compulsive over-eaters. Antidepressants may also be helpful in this condition’s treatment. Often, outpatient therapy is recommended for people who eat compulsively. In some instances, however, hospitalization may be required if the condition has led to other serious health problems.
If you or a loved one binge eats compulsively, treatment can help. Sufferers can learn effective strategies for managing their eating habits. Therapy, medication, establishing new routines, and attending support groups can have a positive effect on an individual’s recovery journey.