4 Common Misconceptions about Binge Eating Disorder

Woman sitting down next to a lake

Contributed by Dr. Kate Craigen – Clinical Director of Binge Eating and Bariatric Support Services at Walden Behavioral Care

Although binge eating disorder was officially added to the DSM-5 in 2013 [1], thousands (if not millions) of people have struggled with this disorder for decades.

In what may come as a surprise, binge eating disorder is actually the most common eating disorder in the United States – affecting an estimated [2] 6-8 million Americans (more than all cases of anorexia and bulimia cases combined).

Per the Centers for Disease Control, those statistics account for a lifetime relevance of nearly three percent of all US adults [3].

Common Misconceptions

Despite this, there remains a number of common misconceptions around this complex condition that hinder people from getting the treatment they need:

“Binge eating disorder isn’t a big deal.”
Binge eating disorder, like other eating disorders, is a severe mental health condition that requires appropriate treatment. It can significantly affect overall health and quality of life, commonly resulting in increased depression and anxiety and intense feelings of low self-worth.

“Binge eating disorder only impacts overweight individuals”
Not true. Persons of all body sizes are impacted by binge eating disorder. The disorder can be related to a person’s intense focus on weight and shape and the importance of appearance; which is distinct from actual weight. Recurrent binge eating can lead to weight gain, but not necessarily.

“Binge eating and overeating are the same things.”
These two terms actually carry distinct meanings. Getting a second helping or eating more cookies than you planned doesn’t mean you have binge eating disorder.  This is a complex disorder in which food has gained significant power.

Woman with Binge eating disorder in the rain

An extreme loss of control is experienced by individuals with binge eating disorder which happens at least once per week while they are eating.  They are no longer choosing the foods they are eating during a binge eating episode, and even if they want to, they are unable to stop eating.

“There’s nothing that can help me; I just need stronger willpower.”
Many people blame their “lack of willpower” for their binge eating behavior –but we know that this explanation does more harm than good.

There are ways to change behavior and thinking to gain more control over eating. There are a number of useful treatments that can help people interrupt and end the cycle of binge eating.

Nothing is insignificant about binge eating disorder. As the clinical community and the public deepen its understanding around this highly complex condition, it is our hope those impacted will more easily recognize the symptoms and seek proper help when needed.

Dr. Kate CraigenAbout the Author: Dr. Kate Craigen is the clinical director of binge eating and bariatric support services. She is responsible for the clinical development and consistent implementation of binge eating disorder programming across Walden’s inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and outpatient levels.

Dr. Craigen collaborates with various bariatric providers and partners throughout New England, ensuring both pre- and post-bariatric surgery patients gain the proper behavioral skills to enhance long-term outcomes. Dr. Craigen received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University.


[1] https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/new-dsm-5-binge-eating-disorder
[2] http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/
[3] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/eating-disorders-among-adults-binge-eating-disorder.shtml
[4] https://www.waldeneatingdisorders.com/8-myths-about-binge-eating-disorder/

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on November 22, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 22, 2017.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com