Binge Eating Disorder vs Basic Overeating, What is the Difference?

Overeating can be a normal tendency for many individuals, such as having an extra helping at a meal even when already full or eating beyond satiety at a special holiday meal or celebratory occasion.

It can be confusing to figure out where to draw the line between overeating and binge eating, especially if you find yourself wondering “what is considered binge eating?”

It is important to make a distinction between overeating and binge eating. Binge Eating Disorder is different than simply overeating and is actually a diagnosable eating disorder.

What is Binge Eating Disorder? 

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is defined as recurring episodes of eating significantly more food in a short period of time than most people would eat under similar circumstances, with episodes marked by feelings of lack of control.

Further, men and women who struggle with binge eating typically experience feelings of disgust, guilt, or embarrassment and binge eat in isolation to hide the behavior [1].

individual with BED has recurrent episodes of bingeing without purging, often leading to both emotional and physical distress.

How do I Know if I Have Binge Eating Disorder?

You might be wondering what counts as binge eating. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has strict symptoms that doctors and mental health professionals must rely on in order to diagnose someone with BED.

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These symptoms are outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). In order for someone to be diagnosed with BED, the following symptoms must be present [2]:

  • Marked distress over bingeing episodes
  • Loss of control over amount of eating
  • Episodes that occur at least 1x per week for 3 months

In addition, three or more of the following symptoms must also occur for BED diagnosis:

  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating more rapidly than normal (i.e. two hour period)
  • Feeling depressed, guilty, or disgusted with oneself after overeating
  • Eating alone because of embarrassment associated with how much one is eating
  • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry

BED is actually more common than Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa. [1] Research shows that BED is three times more common than anorexia and bulimia combined. [3]

Though this eating disorder is prevalent in our country, it can easily go undetected from loved ones and even health professionals if the right questions are not asked.

Understanding the criteria that sets this disorder apart from overeating can help raise greater awareness of the severity of binge eating and help more people get the necessary care to recover.


What are the Signs and Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder? 

Binge eating disorder may also go unnoticed and untreated because of the confusion about the disorder or the shame/embarrassment that someone struggling with this disorder may feel.

However, if you are aware of the warning signs and symptoms you have a better chance of being able to figure out when someone might need help.

The emotional and behavioral signs of binge eating disorder are: [1]

  • Signs of binge eating, such as finding empty wrappers or missing food containers
  • Discomfort with eating around others or in public
  • Stealing or hoarding food
  • Creating lifestyle changes or rituals in order to binge
  • Withdrawing from friends or enjoyable hobbies
  • Frequently diets
  • Extreme concern with body weight or shape
  • Frequent mirror gazing or body checking
  • Eating alone due to embarrassment at the amount of food being eaten
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Low self-esteem

There are physical signs of binge eating as well, including: [1]

  • Noticeable fluctuations in weight, whether weight gain or loss
  • Stomach cramps
  • Gastrointestinal issues, such as constipation or acid reflux
  • Difficulty concentrating

So if you’re wondering if you have Binge Eating Disorder vs basic overeating, reaching out to a qualified eating disorder professional. These providers can conduct a thorough assessment in order to determine what your unique needs may be.

Finding an eating disorder specialist can be an invaluable part of this process, as they can appropriately assess symptoms that may be experienced to make a diagnosis. Early detection can be instrumental in the recovery and treatment for any individual who might be struggling with binge eating disorder.


[1] National Eating Disorders Association. (n.d). Binge eating disorder. Retrieved July 26th, 2022 from

[2] American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).

[3] National Eating Disorders Association. (n.d). Statistics and research on eating disorders. Retrieved July 26th, 2022 from

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 November 7th, 2022 on
Reviewed & Approved on November 7th, 2022, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

Author: Samantha Bothwell, LMFT