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Binge eating is a disorder in which people eat more than they need to satisfy their hunger .

Alternative Names:

Eating - binge


The eating disorder bulimia is most common among female adolescents and young adults. People with bulimia typically eat large amounts of high-calorie foods, usually in secret. After this binge eating they often force themselves to vomit. They have feelings of guilt or depression .

Complications from long-term bulimia include:

Constipation and hemorrhoids are also common in people with bulimia.

Although death from bulimia is rare, the disorder can last for years. It can be as severe as, or more severe than anorexia nervosa .

Common Causes:

The cause is unknown. However, binge eating often begins during or after strict dieting. It may be caused by the stress of not eating enough food.

Home Care:

Take steps to reduce your stress and improve your overall health.

Medication is usually not needed for this disorder. However, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants.

Supportive care and counseling are recommended. Individual, group, family, and behavioral therapy may help.

Call your health care provider if:

Call your health care provider if you think you might have bulimia.

What to expect at your health care provider's office:

The health care provider will perform a physical examination . The doctor may ask one or more of your family members for a history of your eating patterns if you do not acknowledge that you are binge eating.

The health care provider may ask the following medical history questions:

  • How long has this been occurring?
  • Are you also "purging" (such as forcing yourself to vomit or abusing laxatives)?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

Possible diagnostic tests include blood studies, such as electrolyte levels.


Behavior is usually controlled with:

  • Biofeedback training
  • Counseling
  • Individual or group psychotherapy

References: Schmidt U, Lee S, Beecham J, et al. A randomized controlled trial of family therapy and cognitive behavior therapy guided self-care for adolescents with bulimia nervosa and related disorders. Am J Psychiatry. 2007;164:591-598.

Review Date: 1/15/2009
Reviewed By: Benjamin W. Van Voorhees, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics, and Psychiatry, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Review provided by Verimed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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