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Binge eating disorder

People with binge eating disorder often eat an unusually large amount of food and feel out of control during the binges. Unlike bulimia or anorexia, binge eaters do not throw up their food, exercise a lot, or eat only small amounts of only certain foods. Because of this, binge eaters are often overweight or obese. People with binge eating disorder also may:

  • Eat more quickly than usual during binge episodes
  • Eat until they are uncomfortably full
  • Eat when they are not hungry
  • Eat alone because of embarrassment
  • Feel disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating

About 2 percent of all adults in the United States (as many as 4 million Americans) have binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder affects women slightly more often than men.

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People with binge eating disorder should get help from a health care professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker. As with bulimia, there are different ways to treat binge eating disorder that may be helpful for some people.

  • Nutritional advice and psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Drug therapy, such as antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac) or appetite suppressants prescribed by a doctor

CBT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the important role of thinking in how we feel and what we do. Therapy for a person with binge eating disorder may be one-on-one with a therapist or group-based.

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Content last updated: March 29, 2010.

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