Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. Also referred to as emotional eating or compulsive overeating, binge eating disorder characterized by episodes of excessive food consumption over short periods. Binge eating disorder statistics estimate that the condition affects 2.8 million adults in the U.S.

Some key binge eating disorder facts include:

  • The exact cause of binge eating disorder is unknown
  • Binge eating disorder always involves experiencing a loss of control over food consumption during binge periods
  • Affected individuals usually feel depressed or guilty after an episode binge eating
  • The main difference between binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa is that binge eating episodes are not followed by purging, excessive exercise or fasting

Prevalence of Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder among Americans, affecting people at higher rates than bulimia and anorexia. Binge eating disorder prevalence in American adults is estimated at 1.2%, compared to 0.3% for bulimia and 0.6% for anorexia. Approximately 62.6% of the population with binge eating disorder experiences functional impairment, either in social, familial, or professional relations.

Binge Eating Demographics

Who is at risk for binge eating disorder? According to a national survey, the median age of onset of binge eating disorder is 21 years old. Data reveals that this disorder is present twice as frequently in females compared to males (1.6 and 0.8%, respectively). Binge eating disorder in teens tends to be more frequent. Some studies estimate that it may affect up to 5% of teenagers, with a peak prevalence at the age of 16–17 years.

Binge Eating and Co-Occurring Disorders

Binge eating disorder can co-occur with other mental disorders. In fact, 78.9% of the people with binge eating disorder live with another mental health disorder. Anxiety and binge eating disorder seem to be very closely associated, with 65.1% of persons with binge eating disorder presenting some type of anxiety disorder. Depression and binge eating disorder are also linked since individuals with binge eating disorder have six times higher odds of being depressed. Finally, stress and binge eating are also connected, since women with this disorder are more likely to have experienced chronic life stress, such as abuse or trauma.

Health Risks Related to Binge Eating

Binge eating disorder can harm overall health. The health consequences of binge eating disorder are various and are related to both physical and mental wellness. Some of the most significant binge eating health risks include:

Binge Eating Disorder Treatment and Prognosis

Treatment is sought by 43.6% of individuals with binge eating disorder, particularly females. First-line treatment usually involves a psychotherapeutic approach. Psychotherapy is the most validated and effective treatment for binge eating disorder. The most common form of psychotherapy for this disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy, where the main objective is to understand the psychological origin of the disorder. Dialectic-behavioral therapy, which focuses on emotion regulation, stress tolerance and addressing the triggers of binge eating can also be useful.

Some psychotherapeutic approaches may focus on modifying diet and lifestyle. Psychoeducational interventions seek to give patients more information about the disorder so they can better understand their condition and improve their ability to manage urges. This approach is usually helpful as baseline therapy but is only effective on its own in less severe cases.

For more severe cases of binge eating disorder, pharmacological treatment may also be used. This treatment will mainly focus on reducing impulsiveness as well as decreasing negative feelings that can trigger binge eating episodes. The most common antidepressants used for treating binge eating disorder are serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine and sertraline. Thanks to these treatments, the prognosis for binge eating disorder is quite favorable, particularly if several of these approaches are used sequentially.

If you or a loved one live with co-occurring binge eating disorder and substance abuse, contact The Recovery Village to find out more about the treatment options that may help you.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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