Page header image

Binge Eating Disorder: Teen Version

What is binge eating?

Binge eating is an eating problem that causes you to eat large amounts of food within a short time. It is one of the most common eating disorders. When you binge, you cannot control your eating. It is not just a matter lack of willpower or poor eating habits. Binge eaters do not usually throw up (purge) or exercise too much after they eat. Usually binge eaters are overweight. Binge eating disorder can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, tiredness, joint pain, diabetes, gallbladder disease, and heart disease.

What is the cause?

The exact cause of this disorder is not known. It may be related to problems with the chemicals in the brain that control mood and appetite.

You may be at risk of developing binge eating disorder if you:

  • Have a history of physical or sexual abuse
  • Have a family history of eating disorders
  • Have a family or personal history of depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder

Many things such as stress, depression, loneliness, or anger can start a binge.

Binge eating often starts in the late teenage years or early adult years. It affects both males and females, but is a little more common in females.

What are the symptoms?

During a binge, you may eat 10,000 to 20,000 calories in a single day, rather than the average amount of 1,500 to 3,000 calories per day. Binges include foods like cookies, candy, chips, ice cream, and other high calorie foods. Most people with this problem do not binge on healthy foods, such as vegetables.

Binge eating usually involves at least 3 of the following:

  • Eating much faster than normal
  • Eating until you feel uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts of food when you are not physically hungry, as a way to deal with other problems
  • Eating in secret because you are embarrassed by how much you eat
  • Feeling disgusted, depressed, or very guilty after overeating

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. He will ask about your eating patterns.

How is it treated?

Treatment involves learning healthy eating habits. Your healthcare provider may suggest that you meet with a dietitian to create a healthy eating plan. You may need therapy to help you change how you think about yourself and food.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a way to help you identify and change views you have of yourself, the world, and the future. CBT can make you aware of unhealthy ways of thinking. It can also help you learn new thought and behavior patterns.

Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to help reduce constant thoughts about food. Medicines that help reduce depression and anxiety may help binge eating.

You may think constantly about weight and food for many years. Even after you reach a healthy weight, you may need to continue treatment for many months. Being under a lot of stress can cause the symptoms to get worse. The earlier you seek treatment, the more successful it is likely to be.

How can I take care of myself?

  • Get support. Talk with family and friends. Join a support group in your area.
  • Learn to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax, for example, take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, or take walks. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
  • Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, quit. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Exercise according to your healthcare provider's instructions.

    Plan your meals ahead of time and eat only at regular meal times. Eat a healthy diet. Do not keep foods around that may start binge eating. Avoid fad diets or very restrictive diets.

    Keep a food diary. Write down when you eat, how you are feeling, how hungry you are, what you eat, and how much you eat. Keeping a food diary can help identify the feelings that cause binge eating.

  • Check your medicines. To help prevent problems, tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all of the medicines, natural remedies, vitamins, and other supplements that you take. Take all medicines as directed by your provider or therapist. It is very important to take your medicine even when you are feeling and thinking well. Without the medicine, your symptoms may not improve or may get worse. Talk to your provider if you have problems taking your medicine or if the medicines don't seem to be working. Take mineral and vitamin supplements as recommended by your healthcare provider.
  • Contact your healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse. See your healthcare provider regularly to have your weight, blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature checked.

Get emergency care if you or a loved one has serious thoughts of suicide or harming others.

For more information, contact:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-05-08
Last reviewed: 2013-09-11
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
Page footer image