Binge Eating Disorder

Eating Disorder Insights: Signs of Orthorexia

Helping to distinguish between overeating and Binge Eating Disorder. 

Overeating happens. Overeating does not always have to be sinister or a sign that an eating disorder is lurking. We might have let our hunger get the best, going too long without refueling. Perhaps it was a special occasion, and we consumed a bit too much, wanting to cherish the delicious goods. So if overeating happens, what’s the difference between Binge Eating Disorder and overeating? 

The difference is that overeating happens occasionally. It is not a planned occurrence nor a symptom of Binge Eating Disorder, however, is a diagnosable eating disorder with quantifiable characteristics, tendencies and behaviours.

Binge Eating Disorder vs Overeating, what is the difference?

Binge Eating Disorder is an eating disorder, and an eating disorder is defined as “behavioural conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviours and associated distressing thoughts and emotions.” Basic overeating is simply consuming, unconscionably and without intent, more food than what is needed to satiate or fuel the body which results in discomfort. With Binge Eating Disorder, there is an intent to overeat, is often planned and results in psychological turmoil.

Binge Eating Disorder according to the American Psychiatric Association is “recurring episodes of eating significantly more food in a short period of time than most people would eat under similar circumstances, with episodes marked by feelings of lack of control. 

It is incredibly common that at various times in our lives, we will have over-consumed or over eaten without intent. And although eating disorders are not a rarity nowadays, it is not common that at some point in our lives, we will all suffer from an eating disorder, in particular Binge Eating Disorder. Therefore, those with Binge Eating Disorder are deserving of fair treatment, empathy, and respect. Having an eating disorder is traumatic and oftentimes emotionally and mentally taxing to overcome. It is never a choice and is not something that can be easily disengaged from.

What criteria are used for the diagnosis of Binge Eating Disorder?

According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), the following is used to diagnose binge eating disorder:

  • Marked distress over binging episodes
  • Loss of control over amount of eating
  • Episodes that occur at least 1x per week for 3 months
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating more rapidly than normal (i.e. two hour period)
  • Feeling depressed, guilty, or disgusted with oneself after overeating
  • Eating alone because of embarrassment associated with how much one is eating
  • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry

Binge Eating Disorder is the most common eating disorder, however, can be left undetected and therefore underreported. Episodes of binging can often happen in private leaving sometimes little evidence that a binge has happened. Furthermore, physical markers of Binge Eating Disorder are sometimes hard to identify. Eating disorders can fill the individuals who are suffering from them with shame and are often left unreported. Binge Eating Disorder is a psychiatric disorder and is fully treatable with treatment in the form of therapy. It is possible to leave a life free of intentional binges and feel in complete control around food.

 What are the symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder?

Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder can include but are not limited to the below list. If you, or anyone you know displays a few or all of these behaviours, this may be a sign Binge Eating Disorder is active.

  • Eating large amounts of food in unusually small amounts of time
  • A lack of control when eating, feeling like you can’t stop
  • Eating beyond the point of satiation or feelings of being full, extreme discomfort ensues
  • Ignoring hunger cues and eating without feelings of being hungry
  • Eating alone or in secret
  • Hiding or storing food
  • Feelings of remorse, guilt, and shame once the binge has concluded
  • Recurrent binges that are followed by restrictions, followed by binges, followed by restrictions, etc…

Related Article: Identifying and Managing Signs, Symptoms, and Recovery of Binge Eating Disorder

Dr. Natalie Mulligan graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). She completed her clinical internship at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic with a focused interest in mental health. Prior to attending CCNM, she completed a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Waterloo.