Binge eating disorder

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Binge eating is an eating disorder in which a person regularly eats unusually large amounts of food. During binge eating, the person also feels a loss of control and is not able to stop eating.

Alternative Names

Eating disorder - binge eating; Eating - binge; Overeating - compulsive; Compulsive overeating


The exact cause of binge eating is unknown. Things that may lead to this disorder include:

  • Genes, such as having close relatives who also have an eating disorder
  • Changes in brain chemicals
  • Depression or other emotions, such as feeling upset or stressed
  • Unhealthy dieting, such as not eating enough nutritious food or skipping meals

In the United States, binge eating is the most common eating disorder. More women than men have it. Women are affected as young adults while men are affected in middle age.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you think you, or someone you care for, might have a pattern of binge eating or bulimia.


American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013.

Kreipe RE. Eating disorders. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 28.

Lock J, La Via MC; American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Committee on Quality Issues (CQI). Practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with eating disorders. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2015;54: 412-425. PMID: 25901778

Tanofsky-Kraff, M. Eating disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 219.

Thomas JJ, Mickley DW, Derenne JL, Klibanski A, Murray HB, Eddy KT. Eating disorders. In: Stern TA, Fava M, Wilens TE, Rosenbaum JF, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 37.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 2/2/2016
  • Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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