What is compulsive overeating?

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What is compulsive overeating?

Compulsive overeating is a psychological illness characterized by the sufferer frequently eating excessive amounts of food, sometimes even when they are not hungry. Most of the overeating does not take the form of binges but the sufferer may pick at food or “graze” throughout the day.

Compulsive overeating is not the same as binge-eating disorder, although both involve consuming large quantities of food. The psychological aspects of compulsive overeating make it stand apart from binge-eating disorder. Sufferers of compulsive overeating may feel relief or joy after eating, as it helps fill a void inside of them. Sufferers of binge-eating disorder tend to feel guilt, disgust and depression after binging (similar to sufferers of bulimia). A sufferer of compulsive overeating tends to obsess and think about food far more than a sufferer of binge-eating disorder. They may plan their day around what, when and where they are going to eat.

According to The Eating Disorders Sourcebook (Costin, Carolyn), approximately one in five young women report that they have had a binging relationship with food. The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness estimates that 1-4% of the US population suffers from binge-eating disorder, and men make up about 40% of these numbers. They also report that the onset of binge-eating disorder usually occurs during the late adolescence or early twenties. However, it should be noted that binge-eating disorder can affect anybody, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.

Physical signs and symptoms

There are many physical symptoms associated with compulsive overeating. Most of the symptoms are long term unless the sufferer is also purging (but not purging often enough to be clinically diagnosed with bulimia). Purging can have immediate consequences, as well as, long term ones. Some of the physical signs and symptoms associated with binge-eating disorder include:

  • Weight gain, often leading to obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Chronic kidney problems or kidney failure
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Complications during pregnancy
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Skin disorders