Compulsive Overeating



As with any addiction Compulsive Overeating affect s the brain by stimulating the release of certain “feel good” chemicals. Process addictions are no different however they can be harder to detect and treat. This is true with Compulsive Overeating. How does one tell the difference between a fully addicted over eater and someone who just does not know when enough is enough? Both issues do require intervention of some type however Compulsive Overeating comes with unique issues.


Consider that most people feel control over their eating habits. They eat when they are hungry, they stop when they feel satisfied or full. They may not eat healthy, they may eat too much but in general the start stop function is working.  People who suffer from Compulsive Overeating also have these feelings, but they continue to eat after their body tells them they are full. In short the Compulsive overeater ignores the internal messages and act against their own will.  This in turn manifests itself in binge eating and excessive snacking.


Binge Eating , as defined by the DSM-IV

  • Eating, in a discrete period of time an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances
  • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode
  • People describe feeling that they cannot stop eating or control what or how much they are eating
  • Extreme Compulsive Overeating can result in Bulimia Nervosa. Bulimia Nervosa is defined by very specific criteria, Including.
  • Recurring episodes of binge eating as defined above.
  • Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behaviour to prevent weight gain
  • Subtype Purge – misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas or other medicines. Also self induced vomiting.


  • Non-Purge subtype – excessive exercise, fasting, starvation


  • These behaviours occur on average one a week for three months.


  • Negative perception of weight, and/or body shape


Less severe but a precursor to Bulimia Nervosa is Binge Eating Disorder. Binge Eating Disorder is marked by its own characteristics.

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating as described above
  • Distress centered on binge eating
  • 2 days a week for at least two month of binge eating episodes
  • In general the inappropriate compensatory behaviors listed above do not occur with simple binge eating disorder


There are many psychological and social reasons for these conditions. Socio-cultural issues including poor body image, junk food culture, diet crazes and unrealistic media presentation of body image. Psychologically many Compulsive Over eaters describe self-regulation problems, eating for emotional comfort and also many over eaters are in general susceptible to addiction.


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