When You Can’t Stop Eating

Often when people think of eating disorders, they picture a young woman counting calories, wasting away in the case of anorexia, or a young woman hunched over the toilet purging her meals in order to stay slim in the case of bulimia.  However, many people often overlook or are unaware of compulsive overeating or binge eating, which is also a very serious eating disorder. In fact according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, almost 5 % of adults in the United States have some form of binge eating disorder. Similar to alcoholism and substance abuse, binge eating is considered an addiction and is listed in the DSM V.  I have personal experience with binge eating disorder.  I struggled with this for many years and found help   through groups and individual psychotherapy.  However as with all addictions, it’s something which needs to be continued to be worked on in order to remain in recovery. Many are surprised to learn that binge eating is an addiction. However  if you do some online research, you will see that food activates the same reward pathways that are activated when one uses cocaine, opiates, etc.

According to the DSM V,  binge eating disorder is characterized by frequent episodes of eating large amounts of food and/or feeling unable to stop eating. People who have binge eating disorder often feel embarrassed about overeating and want to stop, but are trapped in a vicious cycle of shame and compulsive eating. In order to recover, one must change the relationship they have with food, a process that can take some sessions with a mental health professional.  If you feel that your eating is out of control, it’s important to reach out for help.


Behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms of binge-eating disorder include the following:

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, such as over a 2-hour period
  • Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
  • Eating even when you’re full or not hungry
  • Eating rapidly during binge episodes
  • Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
  • Frequently eating alone or in secret and/or hiding your food
  • Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss



According to the Mayo Clinic, there are correlations between binge eating and depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Having tried many diets or having grown up in a household that promoted binge-eating behaviors also contribute to the disorder.

Risk factors
According to The Alliance For Eating Disorders  there are several factors which will increase a person’s risk for developing binge eating disorder.  This list of factors is from their  website, allianceforeatingdisorders.com.

  • Family history.You’re much more likely to have an eating disorder if your parents or siblings have (or had) an eating disorder. –
  • Psychological issues.Most people who have binge-eating disorder feel negatively about themselves and devalue their skills and accomplishments, which often coincides with depression.  Triggers for binging often include stress, poor body self-image, food, and boredom.
  • Dieting.Many people with binge-eating disorder have a history of dieting — some have dieted to excess dating back to childhood. Dieting or restricting calories during the day may trigger an urge to binge eat, especially if you have low self-esteem and depression.  You may also be hungry from restricting all day.
  • Your age.Although people of any age can have binge-eating disorder, it usually develops  in adolescence or during the early 20’s

.If not treated, binge eating disorder can causes health consequences down the road such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol.  Talk to your primary care doctor or a mental health provider about your binge eating symptoms and feelings. If you’re nervous or reluctant to seek treatment, talk to someone you trust about what you’re going through. A friend, loved one or   teacher can help you take the first steps to successful treatment of binge-eating disorder.  Over eaters Anonymous is also a resource where people who also deal with binge eating come together to support each other in recovery.  Remember, you’re not alone and seeking help is the first step towards recovery.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s