Craving food is a normal human behavior. Sometimes people may overeat. This does not necessarily mean a person has an eating disorder.
Individuals with binge eating disorder (BED) engage in binge eating, but in contrast to people with bulimia nervosa (BN) they do not regularly use inappropriate compensatory weight control behaviors such as fasting or purging to lose weight. Binge eating, by definition, is eating that is characterized by rapid consumption of a large amount of food by social comparison and experiencing a sense of the eating being out of control. Binge eating is often accompanied by uncomfortable fullness after eating, and eating large amounts of food when not hungry, and distress about the binge eating. There is no specific caloric amount that qualifies an eating episode as a binge. A binge may be ended by abdominal discomfort, social interruption, or running out of food. Some who have placed strict restrictions on what and when it is OK to eat might feel like they have binged after only a small amount of food (like a cookie). Since this is not an objectively large amount of food by social comparison, it is called a subjective binge and is not part of binge eating disorder.
When the binge is over, the person often feels disgusted, guilty, and depressed about overeating. For some individuals, BED can occur together with other psychiatric disorders such as depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, or self-injurious behavior. The person suffering from BED often feels caught up in a vicious cycle of negative mood followed by binge eating, followed by more negative mood. Over time, individuals with BED tend to gain weight due to overeating; therefore, BED is often, but not always, associated with overweight and obesity. Previous terms used to describe these problems included compulsive overeating, emotional eating, or food addiction.
When identifying and diagnosing BED, doctors and mental health professionals refer to the criteria in the Diagnostic and statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV) which says, a person must have had, on average, a minimum of two binge-eating episodes a week for at least six months. Although this is a somewhat arbitrary criterion and any amount of binge eating should be attended to.
Common Signs of BED
Most people who suffer from BED tend to do so in secret. They tend to limit their binge episodes to when they are alone, thus it is not easy to identify someone with BED. Weight gain is a common sign, but not everyone who gains weight does so because they binge eat. Many people with BED struggle with depressed and/or anxious mood. Some individuals with BED can develop strict rules about what foods are ?good? vs. ?bad? to eat. In turn, they become preoccupied with enforcing these rules as a means for distracting from their painful feelings, tension, and anxiety. In the end, this preoccupation only serves to perpetuate the need for these rigid rule-based behaviors.