How to tell if you have Binge Eating Disorder (as defined by the DSM-5)
1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:
Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances
The sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)
2. Binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:
-Eating much more rapidly than normal
-Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
-Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
-Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating
-Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating
3. Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.
4. The binge eating occurs, on average, at least 1 day a week for 3 months
5. The binge eating is not associated with the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behavior (e.g., purging, fasting, excessive exercise) and does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
Source: Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th Ed). Washington DC:
American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
What if I don’t fit that, but still eat a lot?
Just because your behaviors don’t fit the formal diagnosis does not mean that you are not struggling. Any food thoughts and behaviors that interfere with normal life are a problem and can snowball into full-blown eating disorders.
Typically, people overeat for one of 3 reasons:
1. Deprivation-driven binges: When you restrict how much you eat, or tell yourself you can’t have [specific foods] it makes you not only hungry, but crave what you can’t have. You avoid it so long that when it is finally available (or at the end of a long day) you eat a lot of it. This is often caused by dieting.
2. Emotional overeating: Stressors or emotional situations send you running for a spoon as a way to distract/numb/fill a void/avoid the emotion. This is often caused by not having built skills to deal with these emotional or stressful situations. This often pairs with social isolation, poor communication skills,
3. Substance use: Excessive drug (especially marijuana) or alcohol use often leads to binges when your defenses are down (this is heightened by dieting/restricting which increases hunger that is acted on when under the influence of drugs/alcohol). If substance abuse is the problem - seek help for that first!
Any of that sound like you?
It is time to get professional help.
For any type of disordered eating there are physical and mental complications that develop over time. Some are quickly noticeable (ex: how much more time you spend thinking about food), some develop slowly (ex: deadly heart conditions). The earlier you get help the faster you can get back to a more enjoyable life and keep your body healthy for years to come.
Typically professional help involves a team approach to meet all of the mental, physical, and behavioral issues. This team should include: a Registered Dietitian (RD, or RDN), a licensed therapist (MFT, LCSW, Psychologist, LPCC), and a medical provider (MD, NP, FNP, or PA), all who specialize in eating disorders.
A good place to search for professionals in your area is using sites like edreferral.com or psychologytoday.com to search by eating disorder, location, and insurance provider. If you find one professional you connect with, ask if they have referrals to the others you need.
To speed up recovery (thus saving $$$) I have a course that will help you stop binge eating without giving up the foods you love. In it I'm going to teach you how to figure out your triggers, change behaviors, and how to eat balanced meals and enjoy all food without overthinking it.
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