Diagnostic Criteria for Binge Eating Disorder

Woman eating food out of the refrigerator
Kactus / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Binge eating disorder (BED) is an eating disorder introduced in 2013 in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Although newly recognized as a distinct disorder, it is the most common eating disorder and is more common than anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

A nationally representative face-to-face household survey (U.S.) of nearly ten thousand respondents determined that 2.3% of females and 0.8% of males will develop binge eating disorder.

Approximately 40% of those with binge eating disorder are male. BED often begins in the late teens or early 20s, although it has been reported in young children as well as older adults.

Binge eating disorder is sometimes mischaracterized as food addiction, which is not a recognized psychiatric disorder. While a large number of people with binge eating disorder are overweight, BED can also occur in people who are normal weight.

As most people who are overweight or have obesity do not have BED, it is important not to conflate obesity with binge eating disorder.

While many people may think of binge eating disorder as a less serious disorder than anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, it can be severe, debilitating, and even life-threatening

Criteria for Binge Eating Disorder Diagnosis

To be diagnosed with binge eating disorder, a person must have episodes of binge eating at least once a week for three months. During these episodes, the person will feel a lack of control over their eating (they can't stop eating or control how much or when they eat). 

Binge-eating episodes cannot occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Repeated attempts to stop binge eating, or repeated attempts at dieting, do not exclude someone from a binge eating disorder diagnosis.

Binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following symptoms:

  • Eating much more quickly than normal
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts of food even when not physically hungry
  • Eating alone because of embarrassment about how much one is eating
  • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterward

A major distinction between binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa is that there are no recurrent behaviors used to avoid weight gain or compensate for binge eating. Known as “compensatory behaviors,” these behaviors may include purging or extreme restriction of food intake.

Triggers for Binge Eating

Several triggers for binge eating have been reported in people with binge eating disorder, including:

  • Feeling unhappy, anxious, or other negative emotions about body weight, body shape, or food
  • Feeling bored
  • Problems with interpersonal relationships
  • Weight stigma


Treatments for binge eating disorder include medications (SSRIs and Vyvanse) and psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy. Guided self-help may also be effective. Discuss your specific treatment options—which may include any of the following or a combination of medication and therapy—with your doctor to find the right treatment for you.

Binge Eating Disorder Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide to help you ask the right questions at your next doctor's appointment.

Mind Doc Guide


The DSM-V also allows professionals to specify if a person is in partial remission or in full remission (recovery) from binge eating disorder. The severity, based on the average frequency of binge-eating episodes, can also be specified:

  • Mild: 1 to 3 episodes each week
  • Moderate: 4 to 7 episodes each week
  • Severe: 8 to 13 episodes each week
  • Extreme: 14 or more episodes each week

A Word From Verywell

Regardless of how frequent the individual's troubled eating episodes, if you or someone you know is struggling with binge-eating or compulsive overeating episodes, it is important to see a physician, dietician, or a mental health professional for an assessment. Treatment is available and recovery is possible.

9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Swanson SA, Crow SJ, Le Grange D, Swendsen J, Merikangas KR. Prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in adolescents. Results from the national comorbidity survey replication adolescent supplement. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68(7):714-23. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.22

  2. NationalEatingDisorders.org. Feeding Hope. Statistics and research on eating disorders.

  3. Brugnera A, Lo Coco G, Salerno L, et al. Patients with binge eating disorder and obesity have qualitatively different interpersonal characteristics: results from an interpersonal circumplex studyCompr Psychiatry. 2018;85:36‐41. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2018.06.008

  4. Grilo CM, White MA. A controlled evaluation of the distress criterion for binge eating disorderJ Consult Clin Psychol. 2011;79(4):509‐514. doi:10.1037/a0024259

  5. White MA, Grilo CM. Diagnostic efficiency of DSM-IV indicators for binge eating episodesJ Consult Clin Psychol. 2011;79(1):75‐83. doi:10.1037/a0022210

  6. Naumann E, Svaldi J, Wyschka T, Heinrichs M, von Dawans B. Stress-induced body dissatisfaction in women with binge eating disorderJ Abnorm Psychol. 2018;127(6):548‐558. doi:10.1037/abn0000371

  7. Svaldi J, Caffier D, Blechert J, Tuschen-Caffier B. Body-related film clip triggers desire to binge in women with binge eating disorderBehav Res Ther. 2009;47(9):790‐796. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2009.06.005

  8. Fischer S, Meyer A, Dremmel D, Schlup B, Munsch S. Short-term cognitive-behavioral therapy for binge eating disorder: long-term efficacy and predictors of long-term treatment success. Behaviour Research and Therapy. 2014 Jul;58:36-42. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2014.04.007

  9. Grilo C, White M, Masheb R, Gueorguieva R. Predicting meaningful outcomes to medication and self-help treatments for binge-eating disorder in primary care: the significance of early rapid response. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 2015 Apr;83(2):387–394. doi:10.1037/a0038635

Additional Reading

By Susan Cowden, MS
Susan Cowden is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders.