Compulsive Overeating and Binge Eating Disorder: Are They Different?

Compulsive overeating is both its own type of eating disorder and an umbrella term for eating behaviors that are associated with a loss-of-control to food-related impulses. In this article, we’ll examine the effects of compulsive overeating and its relationship with binge eating habits.

What is Compulsive Overeating?

As outlined above, compulsive overeating is a broad term and it can refer to a number of different eating behaviors, including but not limited to: eating after you feel full, impulsive consumption of certain foods, and eating during the night. Other compulsive behaviors, such as hiding food for later or eating meals in secret, may also classify as compulsive overeating.

There are two main ways of talking about compulsive overeating as an eating disorder. In some cases, a person who experiences frequent episodes of compulsive overeating may be diagnosed with an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). However, in other cases, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) classifies compulsive overeating as a type of binge eating disorder.

What are the Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder is a condition characterized by extreme episodic compulsions towards eating, either generally or for specific foods. The DSM-5 defines a binge eating episode to be “eating significantly more food in a short period of time than most people would eat under similar circumstances, with episodes marked by feelings of lack of control.”

In addition to elevated feelings of stress, guilt, and shame, people with binge eating disorder typically display one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Eating their food faster than needed
  • Eating well past the point of satiety
  • Eating even if they don’t feel hungry
  • Eating away from other people
  • Experiencing distress after eating
  • Experiencing addiction-like impulses towards eating
  • Experiencing a feeling of being compelled or taken over prior to binging
  • Generalized anxiety towards eating

Impacts of Binge Eating Disorder

Binging and overeating can wreak havoc on your health and body image. By far the most common impact associated with binge eating disorder is weight gain. In severe cases, binge eating disorder can even lead to the development of obesity. In addition to increasing the risk of many other medical complications, extreme weight gain due to binge eating will further undermine a person’s self-esteem and body image.

Treatment Options for Compulsive Overeating

The first step to treating compulsive overeating is reaching out to a medical professional or therapist. After taking this step, you’ll most likely begin a binge eating disorder recovery plan, featuring customized therapeutic care and nutritional counseling.

Sources: Eating Recovery Center, Timberline Knolls, Eating Disorder Hope, Psych Guides

Photo: Pixabay

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