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By Lauren Krouse
Binge eating disorder is often misunderstood or goes undiagnosed because it was only recognized as a stand-alone eating disorder in 2013. It’s the newest eating disorder to be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the handbook health-care professionals use to diagnose mental health disorders.
Binge eating means you eat significantly more than a traditional serving size in a short period of time, e.g. a few hours. If you have binge eating disorder, you may also eat in secret and experience a lot of shame about it.
Many of us are just beginning to learn about it, but binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder. As many as 5 percent of us are living with binge eating disorder. It’s a serious medical condition that can become life-threatening, and most people need professional help to recover from it.
Here are some things you should know and information about how to get help if you think you or someone you know may be living with binge eating disorder.
Anyone can develop binge eating disorder, no matter your body size, weight, gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, or background. Symptoms often first show up in your late teens or early 20s, but you can also develop binge eating disorder earlier or later in life.
A few facts about binge eating disorder:
We don’t yet know exactly what causes binge eating disorder, but researchers have discovered many things that may play a role.
The main thing to look out for is a pattern of extreme overeating. One key difference between binge eating and occasionally overindulging is the strong sensation that you cannot control yourself or stop, and the cycle repeats itself weekly or even more frequently. You may also:
People with binge eating disorder often do a lot to keep their struggles to themselves, but there are some signs you can look out for.
Binge eating disorder can also cause serious physical health consequences. Over time, your body may become resistant to insulin, a hormone that helps your body get energy from carbs, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Binge eating can even cause your stomach to rupture, a very rare, but life-threatening, emergency.
If binge eating is stressing you out and taking over your life, but you cannot stop—or if this is happening to someone you care about—now is the time to reach out for the support you need and deserve.
To get support and resources for yourself or a loved one who may have binge eating disorder, contact the National Alliance for Eating Disorders Helpline, which is run by licensed therapists who specialize in eating disorders.
If you or someone you know needs help:
If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7.
You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.
If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.