Compulsive Overeating Overview

What is Compulsive Overeating?

Compulsive overeating is an umbrella term that is used to describe loss-of-control eating behaviors. Compulsive overeating includes, but is not limited to, the following behaviors:

  • Night eating

  • Eating past satiety (continuing to eat even when you feel full)

  • Impulsive eating

  • Other compulsive food behaviors like hiding food or eating food out of the garbage.

There are many reasons behind loss-of-control eating behaviors like these. 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.

​Compulsive eating can be a symptom of bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder, or it can occur independently of another eating disorder diagnosis. However, overeating extends beyond eating too much at a holiday meal or your favorite restaurant, and the solution is far more complex than simply “eating less” or “exercising more” to burn off the calories ingested.

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.

Those struggling with overeating who are of normal and higher weight don’t often see themselves as having an eating disorder. They tend to minimize maladaptive overeating and instead attribute their failed weight loss and food issues to moral failing (“I am a bad dieter” or “I have no willpower”). Once they learn about the diagnostic criteria for various overeating disorders, they often recognize behaviors that have been evident since childhood.

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.

There is no shame in having an eating disorder and there is no shame in seeking professional help. At Eating Recovery Center, we are dedicated to treating compulsive overeating and other related eating disorders. Please call us at 877-825-8584 to speak confidentially with a Master's-level clinician at no cost to you.

We can help you begin the healing process.

Learn more about the
Binge Eating Treatment & Recovery Program

Binge eating expert Dr. Julie Friedman discusses treatment for compulsive eating in this helpful video: 


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