Emotional problems

Binge-Eating Disorder (Compulsive Overeating)

Like bulimics, binge eaters polish off enormous quantities of food in a short amount of time, then regret having done so. However, they do not purge themselves afterward, or fast, or exercise or attempt in any way to compensate for the thousands of calories they’ve just ingested.

Roughly one in three obese adolescent girls who seek treatment for their weight are compulsive overeaters. Compared to other overly heavy teens, those diagnosed with binge-eating disorder are more concerned about their weight and figure. Yet they are more likely to fail at diets. Low-calorie meals leave them hungry, and they are prone to overeating when angry, sad, bored, anxious or depressed. Binge-eating disorder affects far more boys than either anorexia or bulimia; more than one-third of compulsive overeaters are men.

Behavioral Signs

  • Preoccupation with food
  • Depression
  • Feelings of failure
  • Spends less time with family and friends; becomes more isolated, withdrawn, secretive

Physical Signs

  • Typically overweight or obese
  • Following binges: indigestion, bloating, diarrhea, gas pains, abdominal cramps
  • Often sleeps for many hours after binge-eating

The compulsive overeater faces fewer immediate health consequences than do anorexics and bulimics, but unless he seeks treatment for his obesity, he may be setting himself up for a future of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, gallbladder disease and certain cancers.

A diagnosis of possible binge-eating disorder is based on these seven criteria:

  1. Recurrent food-bingeing at least twice a week for six months or more.
  2. During binges, the teen feels unable to control her overeating. 
  3. Eats despite not feeling hungry. 
  4. Often eats until uncomfortably full. 
  5. Tends to eat alone out of embarrassment over the amount of food in front of her.
  6. After bingeing, the teen feels guilty, depressed or upset with herself.
  7. The teen is distressed by her behavior, but unable to stop it.

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