Commonly overlooked as a medical condition, binge eating is an eating disorder that is characterized by an uncontrollable desire to eat. Learn what the signs are.


Increased awareness of disordered eating and eating disorders has shined a light on orthorexia and other restrictive eating patterns that have gone too far.

However, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is often overlooked as an eating disorder when, in fact, it’s the most common when compared to anorexia and bulimia. While we all overeat from time to time, frequently consuming unusually large amounts of food and feeling like you can’t stop eating is when you may need to seek help.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, binge eating disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food.  The eating patterns often happen very quickly and to the point of discomfort, often accompanied by a loss of control during the binge. They often feel like they can’t control themselves, and experience shame, distress or guilt afterwards.  Unlike bulimia, they do not regularly use unhealthy compensatory measures (such as purging) to counter the binge eating.

Emotional eating is another type of eating some people may associate with binge eating disorder. While some people with binge eating disorder overeat because of emotional triggers, not all do. We all have our moments and eat to the point of discomfort at times, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a binge eating disorder diagnosis is in place.

It mostly boils down to how frequently binges occur, whether you lose control and feel like you can’t stop eating, and how you feel during and after a binge eating episode.

Here are 15 signs to help you recognize if you or a loved one may be suffering from Binge Eating Disorder:

  1. I feel very self-conscious about my weight. I feel intense shame and disgust for myself and sometimes don’t like to go out in public.
  2. At times, I tend to eat quickly. Then I feel uncomfortably full afterwards.
  3. I feel so helpless when it comes to feeling in control of my eating urges.
  4. I have a regular habit of eating when I’m bored, but occasionally, I can use some other activity to get my mind off eating.
  5. I have the regular habit of eating foods, which I might not really enjoy, to satisfy a hungry feeling even though physically, I don’t need the food.
  6. Almost all the time I experience strong guilt or self-hate when I overeat.
  7. I have a regular habit of starting strict diets for myself, but I break the diets by going on a eating binge. My life seems to be either a “feast” or “famine.”
  8. I eat so much food that I regularly feel uncomfortable after eating and sometimes feel nauseous.
  9. I have a regular habit of overeating during the night. It seems that my routine is not to be hungry in the morning by overeating in the evening.
  10. I feel incapable of controlling urges to eat. I have a fear of not being able to stop voluntarily.
  11. I have a problem not being able to stop eating once I start and usually I feel uncomfortably stuffed after I eat a meal.
  12. Frequently, I eat only a small amount of food when other are present because I’m embarrassed about my eating.
  13. I frequently spend too much time thinking about how much I ate or about how much I ate or about trying not to eat anymore.
  14. I have days when I can’t seem to think about anything but food.
  15. Occasionally, I feel uncertain about knowing whether or not I’m physically hungry. At these times it’s hard to know how much food it should take to satisfy me.

If you answered yes to more than three of these questions, you may be struggling with Binge Eating Disorder. Consider professional help to greatly increase the chances of recovery, or visit BEDA for resources and support.

Adapted from the original article.

Marissa Campanella, RDN, LDN is a private practice Registered Dietitian based in Scranton, PA helping people find the balance between healthy and happy.  As a ‘food peace promoter’, Marissa specializes in helping those with food struggles and disordered eating in learning how to enjoy food while leaving guilt and self criticisms behind. Connect with Marissa at Thrive Nutrition. 

  1. Hi there,

    You have mentioned that BED is characterised by “…regularly use unhealthy compensatory measures (such as purging) to counter the binge eating.” This is actually a characteristic of Bulimia Nervosa. The DSM-V state that for BED “The binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behavior as in bulimia nervosa.”

    Just wanted to clear up any confusion 🙂