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Interesting Facts about Binge Eating Disorders


Binge eating disorder, or BED was only first outlined as a separate disease state in the 1990s and is still not a diagnosis found in the Diagnostic Services Manual. This is likely to change when the next version is published as an advisory panel has recommended it be included as a separate diagnosis.

Binge eaters are four times as numerous as anorexic nervosa patients. But because they may not appear to be overweight, the condition can go unnoticed. This also makes the disorder difficult to track because in the less severe forms, people may not seek treatment. Estimates are that up to 5% of the US population has the condition.

Not about being fat

Binge eating is not the same as overeating or becoming obese. Patients find they lose control over their eating behaviors and gorge themselves even though the food isn’t providing much satisfaction or even though they are not particularly hungry. A typical binge eater eats fast and eats a lot during a “session,” but the episodes may only occur a few times a week.

Binge eaters typically do not understand their behavior and often feel guilty about it. Concealing how much they eat can lead to stashing food or “secret eating.” Often, they feel shame and will even lie to cover up a binge.

Is overeating in our genes?

Binge eating is an equal opportunity condition. Roughly equal proportions of women and men suffer from the condition and race doesn’t seem to matter either.

Binge eating may actually have an evolutionary benefit. Animals that can eat excessively when food is available are better prepared for when food becomes scarce. However, if this is the case, our evolutionary history has set us up for failure in modern times when food is always plentiful.

Is there hope?

Binge eating cannot be cured in the traditional sense of the word. Treatment results vary, with about half of patients who receive a full course of treatment showing significant progress over a six year period. Another third will show some progress in that time and the rest either withdraw from treatment, have a poor outcome, or see no real change in the behavior.

There is no set amount of food that counts as a “binge.” However, typically, an entire day’s worth of food is consumed in one sitting at a minimum and the maximum can be ten times that amount. Calorie intake can range from 2,000 to 20,000 in a single episode.