The definition of "a very large amount of food" is subjective, but is usually defined as an amount that is significantly greater than most individuals would eat in a similar situation. During these eating binges the person experiences a sense of loss of control (e.g., the feeling that he or she cannot stop eating).
For an individual to be diagnosed with BED, the eating binges must occur on average at least once per week and must be associated with three or more of the following:
- Eating very rapidly
- Eating until uncomfortably full
- Eating large quantities of food despite not feeling physically hungry
- Eating alone because of shame or embarrassment about binging
- Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty following a binge
Unlike bulimia nervosa, individuals with BED do not engage in inappropriate compensatory behaviors (e.g., self-induced vomiting; excessive exercise) after a binge. However, many individuals with BED routinely diet in an attempt to lose weight. To meet diagnostic criteria for BED, the individual must experience significant distress about their binge eating.