Long Term Effects of Binge Eating Disorder

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Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Director of Content and Social Media at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

In 2013, binge eating disorder was included in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), giving an official diagnosis and criteria to this eating disorder that affects countless of individuals [1]. Even with the diagnosis made official in this classification tool utilized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), a cloud of stigma and shame continues to surround binge eating disorder.

While binge eating disorder is marked by specific criteria, many people misunderstand this disorder, simplifying it to a matter of “overindulgence” or lack of self-control.

Signs and Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating is more than just “overeating”, and many of the people who struggle with binge eating disorder are unable to stop engaging in their behaviors, even in face of devastating and harmful consequences. Some of the marked characteristics of binge eating disorder include but are not limited to the following [2]:

  • Eating beyond a point of fullness
  • Consuming large quantities of food even when not experiencing physical hunger
  • Eating food in a rapid manner or fashion
  • Experiencing feelings of guilt, depression, shame, and/or disgust after a binge
  • Eating in isolation due to feelings of shame and embarrassment

BWoman in window thinking about concerns with eating disorder treatment centersinge eating is often a reoccurring behavior, occurring on average once per week for a duration of three months minimally. A person who binge eats often feels “out of control” during a binging episode, with some describing what might be an out of body experience, as it is easy to become disconnected from the reality of what is occurring. A large quantity of food may suddenly disappear without recollection of what was eaten.

While on the surface, the behaviors associated with binge eating disorder may not seem as severe, especially when compared to anorexia or bulimia nervosa, there are serious consequences that can result in both the short and long term with this mental illness. Part of the stigma associated with this disorder is based on weight and appearance alone. Just because a person is at a “normal” weight, overweight, or obese does not mean that a raging eating disorder cannot be present. Weight says very little about whether or not an eating disorder is present, and this is something that is grossly misunderstood about binge eating disorder.

Understanding Effects From Binge Eating

One of the dangerous characteristics about binge eating disorder includes denial, where individuals who are struggling often minimize their struggles. This may be partly in due to shame, or even because an overall lack of understanding about the disease itself. Many people who are suffering with binge eating disorder are often “high functioning”, meaning, they are typically able to keep up normal day to day responsibilities, maintain a career, etc. even in face of a debilitating eating disorder. This unfortunately, perpetuates the idea that binge eating is somehow a character fault and not a real mental illness that requires professional help and care.

Woman thinking of freedmon from Eating DisordersWithout professional intervention, binge eating can continue for years, where the individual will suffer in silence and shame. Contradictory to popular belief, the recurring pattern of binge eating can lead to many detrimental consequences, including physical, emotional, mental, psychological, social, financial and more. Binge eating itself numbs a person not only physically, in terms of being able to register hunger and fullness cues, but emotionally, as food becomes a means of escape and coping.

A person who is binge eating repeatedly will be at increased risk for physical complications, like heart disease, gastrointestinal distress, diabetes and more, particularly when done over longer periods of time. Binge eaters may also experience increased struggles with body image, low self-esteem, and suicidal ideations as the disease continues over the long term. Binge eating can jeopardize relationship, finances, and career, ultimately destroying a person from the inside-out.

If you or someone you love has been dealing with binge eating disorder, it is important to know that it is never too late to get the help you need and deserve for recovery, no matter how long you have been dealing with this eating disorder. Know that there is hope for recovery and for rebuilding your life!

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What resources helped you in your recovery from binge eating disorder?

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.


[1]: American Psychiatry Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing. pp. 329–354. ISBN 0890425558.
[2]:  Westerburg DP, Waitz M (November–December 2013). “Binge-eating disorder”. Osteopathic Family Physician 5 (6): 230–33. doi:10.1016/j.osfp.2013.06.003.

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.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 9, 2016
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com