Binge eating, also called compulsive overeating, is considered the most common eating disorder.
Most of the affected people are obese or mildly obese.
Unlike anorexia and bulimia, it affects men and women at almost the same rate, with women being slightly more vulnerable.
It's hard to define when a person is a binge eater.
All of us tend to overeat at some point and just because we had 3 helpings of turkey during Thanksgiving, it doesn't make us binge eaters.
Even though binge eating is in some ways like bulimia, the difference is that binge eaters don't purge themselves of the ingested food.
What he does share with bulimics is the need or desire to find comfort in eating and the fact that they lose control over themselves while eating.
Signs that can imply that a person has a binge eating disorder is that he might eat very fast, eats unusually big portions and will not stop though he is full.
These signs can make it difficult to diagnose binge eating in children and teenagers, since they tend to eat a lot more during growth spurts.
The binge eater will eat even though he is not hungry and due to the shame he feels about his inability to control himself, will try to eat when nobody is around.
A sign that there is a problem is finding empty containers and cookie boxes or a large amount of candy and chocolate bar wrappers in the binge eater's room.
Once uncomfortably full and the feeling of calmness has subsided, guilt, self loathing and disgust kicks in.
A binge eater will frequently try to go on a diet, might loose some weight but will gain it back very soon.
This is called the yo-yo effect.
As to what might cause binge eating, there are a variety of factors involved.
One might be genetics, where it is passed down from the parents to the children.
Depression, anxiety and/or stress and the inability to cope with these emotions can be the cause itself behind binge eating, or at least trigger the episodes.
It's hard to define though if the individual depressed because of his uncontrollable habit or is he eating because he is down.
The dangers behind binge eating are about the same as the effects of obesity: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and gallbladder complications.
There is also a higher incidence of cancer, mainly cancer of the esophagus, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, colon and rectum.
In men, there is indication of higher rates of death due to cancers of the stomach and prostate and in women, cancers of the cervix, ovaries, breast and uterus.
When seeking treatment, it is recommended that the affected person first deal with the causes and emotions behind his disorder.
There are a variety of options in treatment.
Therapy can give him the tools to dealing with his emotions and looking for ways to manage them without reaching for food.
Self-help group meetings or medications (antidepressants) are other options that can help.
Some people will need more than just one form of treatment to get better.
Once the emotional issue has been addressed, the person can now go on to working on the weight issue itself.
This is best done with the help of a nutritionist.
It is important to seek help as soon as possible if one has binge eating disorder.
It can and WILL take its toll on the body and in some cases, turn into bulimia, further complicating ones health.