Binge Eating Disorder – the other side of Anorexia and Bulimia


By David Joel Miller.

Eating yourself to death – Binge Eating Disorder.

We used to ignore Binge Eating and only pay attention to eating disorders that involved inappropriate ways to control weight. Anorexia and Bulimia are well-recognized eating problems that were covered in previous posts.

Other posts about eating disorders and the new DSM-V proposals will be found at:

Binge Eating Disorder – the other side of Anorexia and Bulimia 

Middle class and starving to death in America – An Eating Disorder called Anorexia

Love Hate relationship with food – Bulimia Nervosa

Eating Disorders and Substance abuse  

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Recently we have started to see how the overeating part can be a major issue even without the effort to control weight. In Binge Eating Disorder the emotional eating component takes place but it is as if the person with Binge Eating Disorder gives up and stops even trying to control their weight.

As in Bulimia, the food is consumed in a relatively short period of time, two hours or less. One episode of this behavior does not make for the diagnosis; Binge Eaters do these behaviors on a regular basis. The strict diagnostic criterion calls for at least one episode a week for at least three months.

Loss of control is a hallmark of this as well as other impulse control problems. It is not simple that the person likes to eat but that they are driven to eat. Even when they try to avoid the excess calories they are unable to control themselves.

Binge eaters eat faster than everyone else, they wolf the food down. And the Binge eater does not stop when full. They are unable to realize they are full until it becomes impossible to eat more. Even when not hungry the Binge eater will continue to eat for the emotional values of the experience rather than for the nutritional ones.

This eating disorder like other eating disorders is characterized by secrecy and avoiding others seeing what the Binge Eater is doing, they will eat surreptitiously to avoid notice. After a binge episode the Binger may become sad, anxious and have feelings of guilt. They can begin to hate themselves.

Binge eaters are not comfortable with what they are doing, they wish they could stop but efforts to control their food intake are unsuccessful.

Binge eating is not a simple case of overeating, laziness or unwillingness to exercise. It is a specific psychiatric problem that includes the uncontrollable urge to eat even when full and the lack of any energy to attempt to lose weight.

Binge Eating may lead to depression or may accompany a mood disorder. Gradually the pounds are packed on; the Binge eater becomes isolated from family and friends and may begin to hate themselves but still can’t stop without help. This condition requires professional treatment. Treatment for Binge eating may be less widely available than therapy for other eating disorders because the health damage occurs more slowly, but untreated the ill effects on health will certainly occur.

There is a fourth category of Eating disorders, Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) which includes both unusual problems in food and weight loss and those cases that are not quite severe enough to get a diagnosis of one of the three principal types.

Three brief posts to cover four potential problems in the area of food and eating. There is treatment available for all of these issues. If you have experienced an eating disorder and care to share your experience, strength and hope please leave a comment about anything related to Anorexia, Bulimia Binge Eating Disorder or any other topic related to recovery.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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10 thoughts on “Binge Eating Disorder – the other side of Anorexia and Bulimia

  1. I struggle with binge eating and have done so for years. I was diagnosed with dysthemic depression & fibromyalgia in my early 20’s. The binge eating began during early adolescence after a two year period of molestation by my 2nd step father and the subsequent disruptions in my mother’s & my living circumstances and her undiagnosed & untreated depression.

    My addictive/self-destructive personality and behaviors have been varied & dispersed over the years and have touched on and been engaged in toxic relationships/codependency, promiscuity/frigidity, substance use with brief & sporadic episodes of abuse, perfectionism, and lots of manipulation and control issues.

    Throughout all of this, I have parented two children to adulthood and am currently parenting a 3 1/2 yr old. I was terrified of turning out like my mother and my maternal grandmother, as well as the thought of what harm my children would/could experience as a result of having me as their mother. Consequently, I have intermittently sought treatment, healing and growth through education, various medical & therapuetic treatment modalities, and access to community & self-help organizations, as well as spiritual/religious practices.

    Today, I can say that while I battle the component and symptoms of depression and binge eating on an almost daily basis, I have not been defeated by them, even as I have been shaped by them and to a large degree my self identity is way too defined by them.

    The successes I can count and name are that I am here and still breathing. I am forming new relationships with my adult children, and parenting my youngest better and healthier than I was or than what I was able to do for her siblings. I am continuing to work toward my own wellness and growth and fighting my way out of isolation, despite the intensity of the thoughts and feelings that try to keep me isolating. Therein lies my victory and hope.

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    • Hi Human,
      I can tell you that it does get better, One day at a time. Just know that you are where you need to be – -there is great learning on this path. Perhaps the best gift of our binges is that it signals us that we need to attend to our own needs, slow down, and take really good care of ourselves. xo

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  2. Pingback: Eating Disorders and substance abuse | counselorssoapbox

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  8. I’m so happy BED is finally being recognized. When i was going through my own recovery, I had a difficult time having my situation understood and taken seriously by those in my life–and I also struggled to find therapists who really understood it too. Thanks David!

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