Laura Dorwart is a health journalist with expertise in disability rights, mental health, and pregnancy-related conditions. She has written for publications like SELF, The New York Times, VICE, and The Guardian.
Stephanie Hartselle, MD, is a board-certified pediatric and adult psychiatrist and Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
Binge eating refers to eating a large amount of food in a relatively short amount of time. During a binge eating episode, you may feel unable to control what or how much you eat.  If someone has binge eating episodes on a regular basis, they may have an eating disorder like binge eating disorder (BED) or bulimia nervosa (BN). 
This article will discuss the signs, symptoms, and causes of binge eating and how to get help. It also covers the possible complications you can face if you don’t seek treatment.
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Binge eating involves eating an abnormally large amount of food in a short period of time. Some of the signs and symptoms of binge eating include:
Many people feel out of control when they are binge eating. Some may even experience euphoria or feel “high” while eating. Later, they often feel embarrassed, guilty, numb, disappointed, or ashamed.
Regular binge eating episodes are typically a sign of an eating disorder—a mental health condition that involves distorted thinking patterns and behaviors around food, body shape, weight, and nutrition. 
Binge eating is associated with the following conditions:
In addition to stress, there are a number of risk factors that make it more likely that someone will develop a binge eating disorder, including:
Binge eating disorder is extremely common. In fact, it is the most common eating disorder in the U.S., affecting around 1.25% of women and about 0.42% of men.
Binge eating disorder is typically treated with individual or group psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help you address your negative patterns of thinking and behavior, improve your self-esteem, and develop better coping skills. Behavioral therapy and nutrition counseling may help you learn more about healthy eating and improve your relationship with food. 
Medication is typically not the first-line treatment for binge eating disorder, but antidepressants can work to treat comorbid mental health conditions such as depression. Early studies suggest that anti-epileptic drugs may help to reduce binge eating behaviors and impulsivity.
Similarly, people with bulimia nervosa often benefit from individual and/or group psychotherapy. The first choice of treatment for most adults with BN is CBT, while adolescents often undergo family-based therapy. In some cases, inpatient treatment in a residential setting for people with eating disorders may help you recover both physically and emotionally. Some healthcare providers prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications for patients with BN as well.

Binge eating disorder is associated with a number of potential health complications, partly because many people with BED are obese. People also tend to eat high-sugar, high-calorie, and high-fat foods during binge eating episodes. 
Some of the health risks linked to untreated binge eating disorder include:
If you experience binge eating episodes as part of bulimia, you may be at risk of developing the following medical complications if left untreated:
Typically, a healthcare provider can diagnose you with a binge eating disorder, bulimia, or another mental health condition using the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5). They may ask you about your eating habits, how often you binge eat, your feelings about your body, and your medical history. 
Your healthcare provider may also perform a medical examination to look for physical signs of bulimia (such as gum disease or swollen cheeks) or BED (such as weight gain). Blood and/or urine tests may be performed to make sure you aren’t experiencing any medical complications related to binge eating, such as diabetes.
If you think you may have a disorder related to binge eating, such as BED or bulimia, it’s important to seek help from your healthcare provider. 
Some of the signs associated with BED include:
The warning signs of bulimia include:
If you are experiencing any of the above signs or symptoms—or if you notice them in a friend or family member—reach out to a healthcare provider right away.
If you or a loved one is struggling with binge eating, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Binge eating involves eating a large amount of food within a relatively short period. People who binge eat regularly may have an eating disorder, such as binge eating disorder (BED) or bulimia nervosa (BN). People with bulimia nervosa engage in binge eating and “purging” behaviors, such as vomiting, exercising excessively, or abusing laxatives. Many people who binge eat also experience stress, anxiety, and/or depression. 
Binge eating behaviors and related disorders are typically treated with psychotherapy. This may take place in an individual or group setting. Some people with eating disorders require inpatient treatment. Medication, such as antidepressants, may help to treat comorbid mental health conditions.

If you experience binge eating episodes, you may feel embarrassed or alone. But binge eating is extremely common and treatable. Don’t be afraid to talk to a healthcare provider about how you can get help.

Binge eating is a risk factor for developing many health conditions related to obesity, such as diabetes. Bulimia nervosa, which involves both binging and purging, has been linked to higher rates of type 1 diabetes. People with binge eating disorders are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
The length of an average binge eating episode varies widely from person to person. Estimates suggest that most binge eating episodes last about an hour among people with bulimia nervosa. Among people with binge eating disorder, research indicates that episodes last about 42 minutes on average. However, some people binge eat for two hours or more at a time.
Binge eating is associated with eating disorders, such as binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa. People with stress, anxiety, depression, and/or mood disorders are also more likely to binge eat. Genetics, environmental factors, social and cultural pressures, personality traits, and/or trauma may play a role in the development of binge eating behaviors.
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By Laura Dorwart
Laura Dorwart is a health journalist with particular interests in mental health, pregnancy-related conditions, and disability rights. She has published work in VICE, SELF, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Week, HuffPost, BuzzFeed Reader, Catapult, Pacific Standard,, Insider,, TalkPoverty, and many other outlets.

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