Overeating vs. Binge Eating Disorder Symptoms
The differences between binge eating and overeating symptoms can be both minor and major. However, it is important that these conditions are correctly diagnosed for proper treatment. Individuals who suffer from these disorders can also exhibit a range of symptoms from mild to extreme. The following information provides more insight into the key differences between binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating symptoms.
Overeating Symptoms: You're in Control
Simple overeating may occur on an infrequent basis and the overeater feels in control of their eating behaviors. Overeating symptoms include eating too much at holidays or special occasions or because of a missed meal. On the other hand, binge eating disorder symptoms include frequent episodes of uncontrolled eating, or bingeing, during which the person may not feel "in control" or in command of their own actions.
Another key difference between the two is that some symptoms of binge eating disorder are hidden due to the shame binge eaters feel about their behavior. People often don't see compulsive eating symptoms like bingeing, due to the secrecy put in place by the binge eater. It is important to recognize the external symptoms of binge eating disorder though, as early intervention brings the greatest chance of successful recovery.
Outward Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
Obesity is the most obvious compulsive eating symptom. Most compulsive overeaters are obese (more than 20% above a healthy body weight), but not all. Binge eating disorder symptoms include:
- large weight gain
- frequent dieting
- as well as several cycles of weight loss and gain
There are many psychological symptoms of binge eating disorder as well. The binge eater often feels shame around eating and may express regret over having eaten so much. The binge eater also may develop low self-esteem both due to the disgust of their own eating habits and possibly due to their feelings about their own body image. So depression is another key symptom and this can sometimes be noticed by others.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), binge-eating disorder occurs in 1>35 adults in the U.S., which translates into 3-5% of women (about 5 million) and 2% of men (3 million). While most binges are done in secret, sometimes overeating symptoms include visible overeating at meal times or eating throughout the day with no preset meal times. Very rapid eating is another sign.
Inward Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
While some binge eating symptoms are visible to others, the defining symptoms are only truly known by the binge eater. Only that person knows whether their overeating symptoms are due to a lack of control. As some binge eaters are good at hiding their compulsive eating symptoms, there may be additional signs on which others can't pick up. These include:1
- Frequent episodes of eating amounts of food that others would find abnormally large
- Frequent feelings of being unable to control what is being eaten or how much
- Eating until uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food when not hungry
- Eating alone out of embarrassment of the amount of food being eaten
- Feelings of disgust, depression or guilt after eating
- Feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety
- Loss of sexual desire
It's important to understand that binge eating disorder symptoms are symptoms of a mental illness and not just behaviors chosen by the binge eater. Recognizing compulsive eating symptoms is the first step in recognizing this mental illness and getting the professional help required. (See binge eating treatment)
Last Updated: 14 May 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD