Warning Signs of Binge Eating Disorder

Eileen Bailey | June 12, 2015

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Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by eating large quantities of food and feel powerless to stop. Those who binge eat might eat when not hungry or feel uncomfortably full. Many people with BED are overweight, however it is possible to have a normal weight and still have BED.

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History of failed diets

Binge eating disorder occurs more frequently in those who have a history of dieting, especially if diets have failed in the past. According to one study, the risk of binge eating increases with the frequency of dieting. [Field et al 2003]

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Eating large quantities of food

Those with binge eating disorder eat large amounts of food in a short amount of time. They frequently eat very quickly in order to eat more. They may appear as if they have no control over how much food they are eating.

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Guilt

Many people with binge eating feel guilt after gorging themselves. They may express remorse at having eaten a great deal of food. This often becomes a cycle - guilt and remorse can lead to more binge eating, which results in more guilt and then more eating.

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Irregular periods

Any type of change in eating habits can cause a change in menstrual cycles. Binge eaters might have irregular periods, skip periods or stop getting their period (amenorrhea).

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Stomach and intestinal problems

Some of the physical repercussions of binge eating include frequent bowel movements, involuntary vomiting (not for purging), abdominal bloating and heartburn. Those with binge eating disorder might increase their use of antacids to help calm their digestive system.

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Dental problems

While anorexia and bulimia are most often associated with dental problems because they are associated with a lack of nutrients, binge eating can also cause dental problems. Involuntary, but consistent, vomiting can harm teeth and gums. Additionally, binge eaters often eat unhealthy foods, leading to poor nutrition.

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Missing food

Binge eaters often hide their eating. You might notice food missing from the refrigerator or cabinets. You might find empty containers and boxes of food hidden under beds, in closets or stuffed in the trash can. You might also find stashes of food, especially junk food, which is hidden to keep their eating a secret.

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Eating alone

Binge eaters can be embarrassed about their eating. They might suddenly prefer to eat alone, where they can quickly eat a lot of food without others paying attention.

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What you can do

It’s important to be sensitive if you think someone you love has binge eating disorder. Offer your support, without judgment. Encourage him or her to seek help. Stay away from accusations, insults and lecturing. Let her know that you are there to provide support because you care about her health and happiness.