Binge eating

Binge eating disorder is increasingly recognized as a problem in both girls and boys, and is characterized by frequent food binges occurring at least twice a week for six months or more. The affected child eats a large amount of food quickly, until uncomfortably full, often when not hungry. Embarrassment about binging often forces people with this disorder to eat in secret and to become overwhelmed with guilt after a binge.

Symptoms and behaviors

Symptoms and behaviors include:

  • Eating large amounts of food, out of control eating.
  • Eating “trigger” foods in large quantities, such as carbs – ice cream, muffins, cookies and peanut butter are common examples of trigger foods.
  • Weight gain. The extra pounds often seem unexplainable to parents because much of the binge eating occurs in secret.
  • Resistance to eating in front of others.
  • Avoidance of eating in restaurants – binging in a restaurant is more difficult than at home.
  • Depression, irritability, withdrawal.
  • Change in friendships.
  • Irritation when friends or family of friends express concern regarding her weight and behavior.
  • Being less focused on school, grades dropping.
  • Anxiety.


The most important first step in treatment is recognizing the signs and bringing your child to medical attention. If a diagnosis of binge eating disorder is made, we will work with your child to help her understand her diagnosis, its gravity and treatment options. Without treatment, binge eating is a dangerous disorder. With early treatment, the chance for recovery is good.

Treatments options include:

  • Outpatient: A team that includes a doctor, a dietician and a psychologist work closely with your child and your family to help her recover. In some cases, a psychiatrist can also be helpful.
  • Inpatient: Certain signs and symptoms of severe binge eating disorder will require us to hospitalize your child for monitoring and medically supervised feedings. The average length of stay for our patients admitted to Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend is one week. This time is spent ensuring that your child’s internal organs are stable to continue recovery. This stay must be followed either by outpatient or residential care.
  • Residential: A child who cannot recover from binge eating disorder without constant supervision by trained professionals will be a candidate for one of many good residential programs in the U.S. We can help you select a good residential program for your family.

Eating disorders

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Does your child have an eating disorder?

At least 30 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. More than 2 million are children between the ages of 13-18.