You’ve probably heard this term before: Binge Eating Disorder, commonly referred to as BED.  But, what is it exactly?  Do you fall into this category? 

 Overall, people tend to see or hear the word “disorder” or “disease” and think, ‘that’s scary…I don’t have that.’  In actuality, BED is much more common than you may think.  Roughly 2/3 of the U.S. is overweight or obese and the correlation of being overweight or obese with binge eating disorder is significant.  In fact, in a 2003 study researchers found that the comorbidity, or frequency at which BED and obesity occur together in the same individual is extremely high. Researchers explained that “binge eating disorder is common among obese individuals seeking weight management, occurring in approximately 8%–19% of obese patients in weight loss programs, 70% of individuals in Overeaters Anonymous, and 25% of bariatric surgery patients”.2 While these statistics only represent individuals “seeking treatment,” like any illness, there tends to be an equally large or even larger population of people who don’t realize that they may need help or are too afraid to seek support.  For this very reason, it is essential that individuals know what BED is and how getting support may be advantageous. 

What is BED?

In psychology, we have what is called the Diagnostic Statistical Manual or DSM.  Think of this as the “Bible” for diagnosing mental health disorders in the field of psychology and psychiatry.  Every mental disorder that has been approved and is currently recognized as a disorder is in this book with the definitions, categories and criteria for diagnosis.

 The current version of DSM (DSM-IV) places BED in the category, “Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified” or “EDNOS.” This generalized term (Not Otherwise Specified) is used to categorize eating disorder behaviors that do not fall into the criteria for anorexia or bulimia. However, the revised DSM text (DSM-V), which is presumed to be published in May of 2013, is likely to classify BED in its own category…it’s about time. 

As with any problematic habit, admitting that you have a problem can be disheartening, but having the strength to ask for help is half the battle. By becoming aware of how this habit negatively influences your life and why you have used this habit to cope with stressors, you will be more able to recognize that it is a problem and accept that you need help in changing the behavior, in this case around food. 

Binge Eating Disorder can most commonly be characterized by the following eating behaviors: 

-An intense urge to eat.
-Continuously eating a larger quantity than is normal for one sitting.
-Typically eating a large quantity within a two-hour period accompanied by a feeling of being out-of-control.
-Eating extremely quickly.
-Secretive behavior.
– Saving food during the day for a binge later at night.
-Eating alone.
-Feelings of embarrassment when eating around other people.
-Feelings of guilt, shame, disgust, loneliness & depression as it relates to the eating behavior.

Binge Eating Disorder is typically first treated with behavioral therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectic behavioral therapy, and/or interpersonal psychotherapy.  If these don’t prove to be effective, medical treatment is usually employed.  Individuals are usually given anti-depressants and anticonvulsants.  Often times some type of medication is used in junction with behavioral therapy, which is actually the most effective method of treatment.  Generally, those who have supportive family, friends, and/or other sources have a better rate of success, or prognosis.  So, seek help!  It can’t hurt. 


  1. Overweight and Obesity in the U.S. (2010). Retrieved from https://frac.org/initiatives/hunger-and-obesity/obesity-in-the-us/
  2. McElroy, SL., Arnold, LM., Shapira, NA., Keck ,PE Jr., Rosenthal, NR., Karim, MR…(2003). Topiramate in the treatment of binge eating disorder associated with obesity: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160 (3), 612. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12562571