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What is Compulsive Overeating?

There are many reasons behind loss-of-control eating behaviors. Some individuals may eat out of boredom. Compulsive overeating may simply be a mindless habit for others. For many individuals, compulsive overeating is a coping mechanism that helps one avoid underlying emotional issues. This can include depression, anxiety, or trauma-related distress.

Symptoms & Signs of Compulsive Overeating

The symptoms and signs of compulsive overeating are varied and diverse. People with compulsive overeating behaviors may regularly experience one or more of the following behaviors:


Eating large amounts of food

Eating what most people would think is an unusually large amount of food

Eating Quickly

Eating much more quickly than usual, or eating slowly and consistently throughout the day and/or night

Impulsive eating

What Causes Compulsive Overeating?

Compulsive overeating is a form of disordered eating, which means that a combination of genetics, psychological issues and sociocultural factors generally contribute to the cause of this behavior.

Because many people struggling with overeating are of normal or higher weights, they often don’t realize their overeating and co-occurring weight issues stem from emotional issues.

There is limited recognition — even among skilled and well-meaning healthcare providers — of the biological components of obesity including how weight is influenced by genetics, physiological factors and loss-of-control eating behaviors.

The reality is that a complex set of hormones influence and determine hunger and satiety cues as well as how we feel, think and behave around food. One’s weight and eating behaviors are largely determined by neurobiology rather than laziness or ‘motivation’ to lose weight.

~Julie Friedman, PhD, National Senior Director, Binge Eating Treatment and Recovery Program
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Medical and physical health risks

Many people who compulsively overeat — without compensatory behaviors (vomiting, laxative/diuretic abuse, over-exercise) — are of higher weight. When individuals are overweight or obese they may be more likely to experience one or more of these serious medical conditions:

  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Certain types of cancer
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How is Compulsive Overeating Treated?

We recognize that both behavioral and biological factors contribute to being of a high weight, and that many overweight and obese individuals have a co-occurring eating disorder. Unlike a traditional weight-loss treatment center, however, our compulsive overeating treatment program is not an obesity treatment program or a weight management program.

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Why is compulsive overeating a problem?

Compulsive overeating commonly results in weight gain which can lead to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and other weight-related medical concerns. It can also be associated with body image problems.

Is it possible to stop compulsive overeating?

If you are struggling with compulsive overeating or related problems, it does not mean that you lack self-control. Specialized therapeutic care can help you learn why you have these behaviors and how to change them.

Eating Recovery Center is accredited through the Joint Commission. This organization seeks to enhance the lives of the persons served in healthcare settings through a consultative accreditation process emphasizing quality, value and optimal outcomes of services.

Organizations that earn the Gold Seal of Approval™ have met or exceeded The Joint Commission’s rigorous performance standards to obtain this distinctive and internationally recognized accreditation. Learn more about this accreditation here.

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