Long Term & Short Term Consequences of Binge Eating Disorder

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Concerned you or a loved one may have binge eating disorder (BED)? BED is a serious eating disorder that can have both short-term and long-term consequences on a person’s physical and psychological health.

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

BED is a severe, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by recurring binge eating episodes. What is a binge eating episode? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a binge eating episode occurs when a person consumes a large amount of food in a short period of time and feels as if they’ve lost control over how much they’re eating [1].

After the binge episode, the individual often experiences guilt, shame, and psychological distress. Unlike bulimia nervosa, individuals with binge eating disorder do not regularly engage in unhealthy compensatory behaviors (purge vomiting, laxatives, fasting, excessive exercise, etc.) after a binge eating episode.

Research shows that BED is the most common eating disorder in the United States [2]. A 2007 study published in Biological Psychiatry found that 3.5 percent of women and 2.0 percent of men in the U.S. had binge eating disorder during their lifetime, making BED over three times more common than bulimia and anorexia combined [3].

While BED is often thought of as a “less serious” type of eating disorder, the truth is, binge eating disorder is a severe illness that can cause significant short-term and long-term damage to a person’s physical and psychological health and wellbeing. If left untreated, the following complications associated with binge eating disorder can even result in death.

Short Term Consequences

The short-term consequences of BED include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Social isolation and loneliness
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Relationship problems at work or home

Long Term Consequences

Though some of the complications associated with BED may be reversible once treatment is received and binge eating behaviors cease, others may lead to long-term or even permanent damage.

Woman in fall leaves fighting Binge Eating DisorderLong-term consequences of binge eating disorder include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Joint pain and arthritis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Certain cancers
  • Gall bladder disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Sleep apnea
  • Depression

Treating the Long Term & Short Term Consequences of Binge Eating Disorder

Despite being formally recognized as an eating disorder in the DSM-5 in 2013, there is still a level of stigma and misunderstanding surrounding binge eating disorder. For example, some people falsely assume BED is simply a lack of self-control or a matter of overindulgence.

However, as with any other eating disorder, BED is a complex bio-psycho-social illness caused by a mixture of genetic and environmental factors. As such, individuals with BED typically require professional help and treatment to recover.

If you think you or a loved one may have binge eating disorder, seek professional help immediately. If left untreated, BED can cause numerous short-term and long-term health consequences. Start by talking to your doctor about binge eating disorder or call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at 1-800-931-2237 to find out more about binge eating disorder treatment programs in your area.


References:

[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Eating Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/eating-disorders.shtml

[2] Binge Eating Disorder. National Eating Disorders Association. (2018, February 22). https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bed

[3] Hudson JI, Hiripi E, Pope HG Jr, and Kessler RC. (2007). The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Biological Psychiatry, 61(3):348-58. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.03.040


About the Author:

Sarah Musick PhotoSarah Musick is a freelance writer who specializes in eating disorder awareness and education. After battling with a 4-years long eating disorder, she made it her mission to help others find hope and healing in recovery.

Her work has been featured on numerous eating disorder blogs and websites. When she’s not writing, Sarah is off traveling the world with her husband.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a 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 February 25, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on February 25, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.