What to Know About Binge Eating Disorder (BED)


Binge Eating Disorder is one of the most prevalent eating disorders in adults. Learn more about the symptoms and the recovery process for this often misunderstood eating disorder.

by: Alyssa Gutierrez

Binge Eating Disorder, also known as BED, is a new formal diagnosis found in the DSM-5. The disorder was recognized as a clinical condition around 1959 [4]. However, the disorder was first included in the DSM-IV as a qualified diagnosis that intended further study and research. Therefore, individuals who met the criteria for BED were given the diagnosis of eating disorder not otherwise specified [4].

BED is one of the most prevalent eating disorder in adults. Individuals with BED have demonstrated greater general and specific psychopathology than any non-eating disordered individuals [3]. Binge eating disorder  patients consistently lose control over his or her eating [1]. Binge eating disorder differs from bulimia nervosa as episodes of binge-eating are not then proceeded by compensatory behaviors such as purging, fasting, or over-exercising. Men and women who struggle with the disorder may also exhibit feelings of distress, guilt and shame correlating with their binge-eating.  BED affects 3.5% of women and 2.0% of men in the USA [3].

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as the DSM, 5th edition, BED is defined by multiple criteria [2]. Individuals must exhibit behaviors of consuming an unusually large amount of food during a short period of time (compared to what others may consume in a similar situation) [2]. Additionally, one will experience the feeling of losing control over his/her’s eating. Furthermore, at least three of the following characteristics must be present by the individual: consuming food much more rapidly than normal, eating until uncomfortably full, consuming large amounts of food when not hungry, consuming food alone to avoid embarrassment; or feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after the eating event [2]. The diagnosis also involves a significant amount of distress in relationship to the binge eating episodes -- which must occur at least once per week for 3 months or more (on average) [2]. In addition, the disorder must not be connected by any regular compensatory behavior nor should the binge eating occur only when there is an episode of bulimia or anorexia nervosa.

Eating disorders are highly complex conditions and many individuals are still learning about the causes. Even though eating disorders all contain the involvement of food and weight, experts believe eating disorders are caused by people attempting to cope with overwhelming and painful emotions. Tragically, the disorder can absorb an individual's life and provoke harmful effects to their physical and emotional being. Factors that can be involved in developing an eating disorder can be: genetics, environment, peer pressure, and emotional health. Treatment for eating disorders varies depending on the type of eating disorder, but overall, intervention may include the following: psychotherapy, medicine, and nutritional counseling.

It is important for the individual or loved one’s of the individual to seek help and treatment as soon as possible. Treatment and recovery enables an individual to challenge the eating disorder and begin living life free from the disorder.

Looking for binge eating disorder treatment programs or services in the New York City area? Learn more about our options at BALANCE eating disorder treatment center here or contact us here.

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This post was written by Alyssa Gutierrez.

Alyssa is the founder of www.feeding-happiness.com, a website that was inspired by her own recovery journey. The website provides inspiration and information on eating disorders. Recognizing the lack of awareness in Spanish-Speaking countries, the entire website is translated into Spanish to provide various communities a valuable resource. BALANCE is excited to have Alyssa join our team as a blogging intern!

References for this post:

[1]Marwan Akel "Eating and Weight Disorders: A Mini-Review of Anorexia and Bulimia

Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder.” IOSR Journal of Pharmacy (IOSRPHR), vol. 8, no. 4, 2018, pp. 12-16

[2] Iacovino JM, Gredysa DM, Altman M, Wilfley DE. Psychological treatments for binge eating

disorder. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2012;14(4):432–446. doi: 10.1007/s11920-012-0277-8. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef]

[3] Wilfley DE, Citrome L, Herman BK. Characteristics of binge eating disorder in relation to

diagnostic criteria. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. (2016) 12:2213–23. 10.2147/NDT.S107777 [PMC free article][PubMed] [CrossRef]

[4] “NAMI.” NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness,