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Binge Eating Disorder (cont.)

Exams and Tests

Doctors diagnose binge eating disorder by doing a physical exam and asking questions about your medical history and eating habits. Your doctor also might do a mental health assessment, which is an evaluation of your emotions and how well you think, reason, and remember.

Binge eating disorder often is associated with being overweight. Your doctor might use a tool called the body mass index (BMI) to look at how much you weigh compared with your height.

Treatment Overview

Treatment for binge eating disorder includes counseling and sometimes medicine. Goals in treating binge eating often include:

Most people with binge eating disorder need treatment, but many people who have an eating disorder try to keep it secret or deny that they have a problem. Some might join weight management programs to lose weight but do not seek treatment for binging or for mental health problems related to the condition. It often is a family member or friend who convinces the person to seek treatment.

If you think that you or someone you know might have an eating disorder, talk to your doctor. Signs of an eating disorder that needs treatment include binges, concern or embarrassment about eating behaviors, secretive eating habits, preoccupation with weight or body image, or an unhealthy body weight because of eating problems.


Several types of counseling can be useful in treating eating disorders.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy can help you control the urge to binge, especially when combined with nutritional counseling and a weight-reduction program.1 CBT often deals with learning how to eat a balanced diet, because this is important to recovery. Forming more regular eating habits can help reduce binging.
  • Interpersonal therapy. This type of therapy can help you examine any connection between your relationships and your symptoms of binge eating.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy. This approach focuses on helping you manage emotions. By coping better with life's challenges and your emotions, the binging behaviors may decrease. This type of therapy helps reduce binging that is related to stress.
  • Group counseling. This can be used to enhance individual therapy. Speaking with other people who have this condition often can be helpful.
  • Family therapy. Sometimes family members unknowingly interfere with a loved one's recovery. Family therapy can help family members learn about the disorder, get support, and eventually focus on dealing with other family issues. Family therapy often is used as a part of treatment for teenagers who have binge eating disorder. This type of therapy can help reduce binging that is triggered by stress, tension, or relationship problems.


Antidepressants sometimes are used in the treatment of binge eating disorder. They may reduce episodes of binge eating and they may help with related depression or anxiety.

Topiramate (Topamax), which is a medicine used to treat seizures and chronic pain, is sometimes used to reduce the urge to binge.

What to think about

Medicines and counseling may help you quit binging and lose excess weight. But this will take some time and patience. Some people find that they still have trouble losing excess weight, even after they stop binging. Talk to your doctor about what results are realistic to expect from treatment.

Unfortunately, many people don't seek treatment for mental health problems. You may not seek treatment because you think the symptoms are not bad enough or that you can work things out on your own. But getting treatment is important.

If you need help deciding whether to see your doctor, read about some reasons why people don't get help and how to overcome them.

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