Common Triggers of Binge Eating

by Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer

What is a binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder (BED) is compulsive overeating. As with many disorders, it’s not clear why some people are more susceptible than others to the disorder. Researchers do agree, however, that there are triggers that some people with BED have in common.

Chemical imbalances

Dopamine-related issues may be a trigger for binge eating. Many of the physical indicators of general addiction problems also appear to be common in problem eating behaviors, such as loss of control and the inability to stop eating despite negative consequences (Gearhardt, 2011).


When female students were asked to complete an eating disorder inventory, it was discovered that the binge-eating triggers most frequently reported were feeling bored, anxious, tense, and sad (Vanderlinden, 2011).

Irregular eating

Being overly hungry can also serve as a trigger to binge eating. Some who are not on a regular eating schedule (either through time constraints or purposeful dieting) try to satisfy their feelings of starvation with more calories than are necessary. Then, as a result of eating too many calories, they often put themselves on an overly strict diet and the cycle begins again.

Body image issues

According to the Journal of Health Psychology (2002), cultural factors can trigger binge eating. Especially among teens, there can be an unhealthy amount of pressure for a perfect body. There can also be overall low self-esteem. Each of these can cause excessive frustration and can trigger binge eating.

Combination of factors

There are many different pathways to binge eating and different triggers can occur in the same person at different times throughout a lifetime. Sometimes, it is a combination of factors that can trigger binge eating. For example, a difficult work schedule may prevent a healthy eating schedule, causing someone to binge eat, followed by the feeling of depression.

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.
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Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.

Davenport is the founder of Using the latest scientific research, she helps people live their healthiest lives via one-on-one coaching, corporate talks, and sharing the more than 1,000 health-related articles she's authored.