Last updated on: March 28th, 2022

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Binge Eating Disorder



Binge eating disorder (BED) is a significantly prevalent yet relatively recently recognized psychiatric condition. It is important to identify and diagnose BED in the primary care setting because of its prevalence and associated morbidity.


BED is likely the most prevalent eating disorder (ED). It is underdiagnosed and undertreated due to a lack of clinical familiarity with BED, its only recent recognition as a specific disorder by psychiatrists themselves, and underreporting because of stigmatization. Symptoms usually begin in late adolescence or early adulthood, a little later than for other eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. There is no reported difference in prevalence between racial or ethnic groups, with a slightly higher reported prevalence in assigned females than assigned males at birth.


BED is heritable and runs in families. Additionally, genetic correlations have been found between BED and bulimia nervosa, BED and alcohol dependence, and BED and obesity. The most pertinent environmental factor contributing to EDs in general, and especially BED and bulimia nervosa, is stress or trauma, including but not limited to childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. The act of bingeing itself can be construed as a response to acutely painful emotions.


Disturbances in numerous neurotransmitter systems have been reported in BED, including the serotonergic, dopaminergic, cannabinoid, and opioid transmitter systems. Functional MRI studies have revealed impaired cognitive control and altered reward processing in BED, specifically heightened neural reactivity to food cues.

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