Binge eating

Alternative names 
Eating - binge

Binge eating is an eating disorder characterized by eating more than needed to satisfy hunger. It is a feature of bulimia, a disorder that also includes abnormal perception of body image, constant craving for food and binge eating, followed by self-induced vomiting or laxative use.


Bulimia is most common among adolescents or young adults, usually female. People with bulimia typically consume large quantities of easily ingested high-calorie foods, usually in secrecy. Binge eating is usually followed by self-induced vomiting and accompanied by feelings of guilt or depression.

Complications resulting from prolonged bulimia include gastric dilatation, pancreatitis, dental decay, pharyngitis, esophagitis, pulmonary (lung) aspiration, and electrolyte abnormalities. Constipation and hemorrhoids are also common in bulimics.

Although death from bulimia is rare, the long-term outcome in severe bulimia is usually worse than the outcome in anorexia nervosa, which suggests that the underlying psychiatric disorder may be more severe.

Common Causes

  • bulimia (While this disorder often begins during or after strict dieting and may be caused by stress related to insufficient food intake, its cause remains unknown.)

Home Care
Take measures to reduce stress and improve overall health.

Medication is usually not necessary for this disorder. However, antidepressants, as prescribed by the doctor, are often helpful. Supportive care and psychotherapy are recommended. Individual, group, family, and behavioral therapy may provide some help.

Call your health care provider if

  • bulimia is suspected

What to expect at your health care provider’s office
The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed. A history of the eating patterns may be sought from one or more family members because the affected person may not acknowledge that they are binge eating.

Medical history questions documenting binge eating in detail may include:

  • How long has this been occurring?  
  • Are “purge” behaviors (such as self-induced vomiting or laxative abuse) also present?  
  • What other symptoms are also present?

Possible diagnostic tests include blood studies, such as electrolyte levels.

Behavior is usually controlled with counseling, biofeedback training (a process of monitoring body functions and altering these functions through relaxation), and individual or group psychotherapy.

If a diagnosis was made by your health care provider related to excessive eating, you may want to note that diagnosis in your personal medical record.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 22, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD