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Behavioral and Emotional Wellness

What Are the Symptoms of an Overeating Disorder?

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When my 14-year-old daughter and her friends are hanging out at our house, it seems like they're always raiding the refrigerator! I didn't think anything about it but then I heard about this thing called a binge eating disorder. What is it? And should I be worried?
- Hannah

Binge eating, also called compulsive overeating, is different from simply overeating now and then, like at sleepovers.

Teens with binge eating disorder feel a powerful urge to overeat, regularly eat large amounts of food, and don't stop when they become full. They feel out of control and powerless to stop eating. Other signs of binge eating are feeling guilty or acting secretively about the large amounts of food eaten. Sometimes these binges are triggered by emotional stresses, which may occur with problems with friends, academic difficulties, or fighting with family members.

People who binge are usually overweight — even obese — because they take in so many more calories than their bodies can use. As a result, they may gain weight rapidly. They may feel bad about themselves, feel that they lack self-control, and feel bad about their bodies.

Your daughter may simply be overeating from time to time, but if you think she could have a problem with binge eating, talk to your doctor. Successful treatments are available that can help teens to feel better about themselves and to have a healthy relationship with food.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: July 2013

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.

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