What is Binge Eating Disorder?

by | Eating Disorder Recovery

Binge eating disorder, or BED, is one of the most common eating disorders in the United States. Despite this, many people do not understand BED. Instead, there is a ton of bias and stigma associated with eating disorders. So, what is binge eating disorder? How can you find binge eating disorder treatment?


Binge eating, just like all eating disorders, causes preoccupation with food and decreases a person’s overall well being. Both mentally and physically. BED is dangerous and can result in negative health outcomes. Just like all other EDs.

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

BED is a severe, life threatening mental illness. Unfortunately, it has only recently been formally recognized as so. With this recognition, the hope is that more people seek BED treatment. Regardless, individuals have struggled with BED for many years prior to now. 

How is binge eating disorder diagnosed?


Binge eating is defined as eating a large quantity of food in a short amount of time. Usually, this is about two hours. Individuals often eat to the point of distress. Typically, an individual with BED will not engage in compensatory behaviors.

Characteristics of BED:

  • Frequent Episodes of Bingeing: During a binge episode, an individual may feel as if they cannot stop eating. Despite discomfort, distress, or the desire to stop. 
  • Diagnostic criteria for binge eating disorder: Episodes must occur at least once/week for three months. 
  • Guilt/Shame: Individuals struggling with binge eating disorder are at a higher risk for experiencing guilt and shame. As a result, binge eating often occurs during times of high stress, boredom, anger, distress, and/or loneliness. 
  • Binge eating is used as a way to cope with or distract from tough emotions.

It is important to note that even if an individual does not meet the frequency criteria for diagnosis these behaviors still require treatment and help. If you at all feel your relationship is strained, please reach out and schedule a discovery call.

Behaviors Around Food: 

Individuals with BED may be secretive about their eating habits. For instance, they may choose to eat alone or at times when others are not around. Perhaps when everyone has gone to bed or left the house.

Warning Signs of BED:


  • Feeling tired
  • Not sleeping well
  • Non-specific gastrointestinal problems/discomfort. Such as bloating, acid reflux, constipation or diarrhea
  • Difficulty concentrating


  • Preoccupation with eating, food, body size, and weight
  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Fear of eating in public or in front of others
  • Withdrawing from relationships
  • Feelings of disgust, depression, or guilt after eating


  • New behaviors or routines with food, fad diets, or cutting out of food groups
  • Stealing or hoarding food
  • Having schedules or strict rituals to make time for binge sessions
  • Disruption in normal eating behaviors
  • Eating alone

Ongoing BED behaviors can result in both medical and psychological complications. Therefore, BED treatment is crucial. 

This blog isn’t intended to diagnose anyone with BED. It doesn’t encompass everything about BED. However, if any of this resonates with you, it might be time to seek support. Courage to Nourish offers individual support as well as group support. Schedule a discovery call today to get more information.

You can also head to our eating disorder resources page for free handouts. 

Binge Eating Disorder Statistics:

  • Binge eating disorder is 3x more common than anorexia and bulimia combined
  • BED is more common than breast cancer, HIV, and schizophrenia
  • BED often begins in late teens-early 20s
  • ~40% of those struggling with BED are male
  • 3 out of 10 individuals looking for weight loss treatments show signs of BED


National Eating Disorders Association: Binge Eating Disorder

The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey


National Eating Disorders Collaboration: Binge Eating Disorder

Get Help with Binge Eating Disorder

Courage to Nourish is a group of eating disorder specialized dietitians. We have in person locations in Alexandria, Virginia, Columbia, Maryland. and College Park, Maryland. We offer virtual services across the state of Virginia, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. We offer individual nutrition therapy. As well as support groups. We would love to guide you in building a better relationship with food.

Contact us for more information. And to schedule a discovery call. Also, sign up for our client or clinician newsletter!

Take one of our eating disorder quizzes:

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Lauren Hirschhorn, RD, LD

Lauren is an eating disorder dietitian at Courage to Nourish. She specializes in working with clients in recovery from anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Lauren uses the principles of intuitive eating and Health at Every Size in her work. She is currently holding virtual sessions with clients. To set up a discovery call with Lauren or another Courage to Nourish dietitian, complete our contact form. View Lauren's full bio here.

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