Overview

A child with binge eating disorder regularly consumes unusually large amounts of food in relatively short periods of time, with the feeling that her overeating is out of her control. Children or teens affected by the disorder overeat compulsively, often in secret, and with great embarrassment or guilt. Binge eaters can be of normal weight, overweight, or obese. Unlike bulimia, binge eating does not involve “purging,” via self-induced vomiting or other means.

Symptoms of binge eating disorder:

  • Eating unusually large quantities of food
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Eating rapidly
  • Eating to the point of uncomfortable fullness
  • Eating in shame or in secret
  • Feeling depressed, anxious, or ashamed about eating habits
  • Gaining and losing weight repeatedly

Treatment and Prognosis

Treatments for binge eating disorder include psychotherapy, behavioral weight loss programs, and medication. The primary goal of treatment, to reduce or eliminate bingeing behavior, may go hand in hand with the goal of weight loss. However, not all children and teens with the disorder need to lose weight.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help patients deal with the issues that may trigger binge eating, such as a negative body image, anxiety, or depression. A form of CBT called interpersonal therapy may assist with binge eating that is triggered by difficult relationships with others, including family members.

While there is no medication specifically to treat binge eating, there is some limited evidence that antidepressants and the anticonvulsant topiramate (Topamax) may be helpful when treating particularly resistant cases.

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