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Overeating Symptoms

Learn about the symptoms of overeating.

Do you eat too much? [© Shutterstock, 2010]
© Shutterstock, 2010
Do you eat too much?

Many people may believe that overeating symptoms are feelings that most people get every so often, not unlike those regretful feelings of being too full after going back for seconds (or thirds). While eating too much at the dinner table may be a normal occurrence from time to time, there are overeating symptoms that suggest compulsive overeating, or binge-eating disorder. This eating disorder is characterized by uncontrollable consumption of large quantities of food, often to the point of physical discomfort from excessive fullness.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 2 to 5 percent of Americans suffer from binge-eating disorder in a six-month period. This article discusses binge-eating disorder and overeating symptoms, as well as where and when to seek help.

Overeating Symptoms

While overeating symptoms may vary, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that the reasons for overeating may include a preoccupation or obsession with food, eating and weight; stress, depression, anxiety, or life factors that are out of the overeater's control; or low self-esteem. Unlike other eating disorders, namely anorexia and bulimia, overeating does not disproportionately affect women.

Symptoms of binge-eating disorder include:

  • Eating to the point of pain or discomfort
  • Consumption of more food more quickly compared to normal meals or snacks
  • Feeling no control over eating behaviors
  • Eating alone, often due to embarrassment
  • Eating large amounts without being hungry
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Feelings of disgust and guilt

When Overeating Symptoms Occur

Binge-eating disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of overeating. On average, compulsive overeaters binge at least twice a week for a period of six months or longer, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
During a binge, an overeater lacks control over what he or she is eating. Overeaters may eat in secret, or hoard food in strange places, such as closets or cabinets, to be eaten at a later time. At other times, overeaters may be chronic dieters who are willing to try just about any fad diet plan in order to lose weight.

How Overeating Symptoms Occur

According to the National Eating Disorders Association,  one major difference between people with binge-eating disorder and other eating disorders is that overeaters don't try to compensate for their increased food intake by vomiting or purging the food they have consumed. During a binge, the overeater will generally be alone and eat very quickly, and won't stop even if he or she feels full.

How Overeaters Feel about Eating

Compulsive overeaters generally feel ashamed or guilty about their binges. They may suffer from depression. They may express disgust with themselves over their lack of control. These feelings may cause the overeaters to binge again in an effort to make themselves feel better, which serves to create a vicious cycle of binge eating.

Physical Symptoms Associated with Overeating

Though being overweight is one of the symptoms of compulsive overeating, people with this eating disorder may be of normal weight. The physical effects of overeating can include high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Individuals with binge-eating disorder may develop Type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease or heart disease. They may feel fatigued or have chronic joint pain.

When to See a Doctor

If a person has had episodes of compulsive overeating twice a week or more for six months, and feels a lack of control over eating habits, he or she should seek medical attention. Eating disorders such as compulsive overeating can be treated through a combination of medical care, psychological evaluation and nutritional counseling, but outcomes are better if treatment is sought early on.

Because people who suffer from binge-eating disorder often do not recognize or admit to having a problem, friends and family members can be invaluable resources to obtain the care needed to effectively treat the disorder.

Like other eating disorders, overeating is best treated with the help of a strong support system. Visit the Overeaters Anonymous web site for meeting locations and information.

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