Compulsive Eating Disorder
Compulsive eating disorder is probably the most common eating disorder. Most people with this problem are either overweight or obese, but normal-weight people can also have the disorder.
About 2 percent of all adults in the United States (as many as four million Americans) have compulsive eating disorder. About 10 percent to 15 percent of people who are mildly obese and who try to lose weight on their own or through commercial weight-loss programs have compulsive eating disorder. The disorder is even more common in people who are severely obese.
Compulsive eating disorder is a little more common in women than in men; three women for every two men have it. The disorder affects African Americans as often as Caucasians. It is unclear how often it affects people in other ethnic groups.
People who are obese and have compulsive eating disorder often became overweight at a younger age than those without the disorder. They might also lose and gain back weight (yo-yo diet) more often.
No one knows for sure what causes compulsive eating disorder. As many as half of all people who have it are depressed or have been depressed in the past. Whether depression causes compulsive eating disorder or whether compulsive eating disorder causes depression is not known.
It is also unclear if dieting and compulsive eating are related. Some people compulsively eat after dieting. Dieting here means skipping meals, not eating enough food each day, or avoiding certain kinds of food. These are unhealthy ways to try to change your body shape and weight.
Studies suggest that people with compulsive eating disorder may have trouble handling some of their emotions. Many people who are compulsive eaters say that being angry, sad, bored, worried, or stressed can cause them to compulsively eat.
Certain behaviors and emotional problems are more common in people with compulsive eating disorder. These include abusing alcohol, acting quickly without thinking (impulsive behavior), not feeling in charge of themselves, not feeling a part of their communities, and not noticing and talking about their feelings.
Researchers are looking into how brain chemicals and metabolism (the way the body uses calories) affect compulsive eating disorder. Other research suggests that genes may be involved in binge eating, since the disorder often occurs in several members of the same family. This research is still in the early stages.