Diagnostic Criteria for Binge-Eating Disorder

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To be diagnosed with binge-eating disorder, you must meet specific criteria regarding your binge eating, including numerous episodes of binge eating and distress surrounding your binge eating.

Although binge-eating itself obviously isn't new, the official diagnosis hasn't been around for very long — it first was included in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, (DSM-V), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

The DSM-V provides physicians and mental health professionals with the criteria for diagnosing mental disorders, including eating disorders such as binge-eating disorder. Binge-eating disorder was included “for research purposes” in the previous edition of the DSM, the DSM-IV-TR.

Criteria for Binge-Eating Disorder Diagnosis

According to the latest diagnostic information, a person must meet the following criteria to be diagnosed with binge-eating disorder:

  • Reoccurring episodes of binge eating. Binge eating is typically defined as eating an amount within a short period of time that is larger than what most people would eat under the same circumstances and within the same time frame. This is different from simply overeating in that the person will feel a lack of control over the eating.
  • Binge-eating episodes must meet three (or more) of the following criteria: eating more quickly than the person normally would, eating until the person is so full it is physically uncomfortable, eating large amounts of food when not hungry, eating alone because the person would be embarrassed for others to see how much they are eating and, feeling negative emotions such as disgust, depression or guilt after the binge-eating episode.
  • The person experiences distress regarding their eating.
  • These binge-eating episodes occur, on average, at least once per week for at least three months.
  • A major distinction differentiating binge-eating disorder from bulimia nervosa is that there are no recurrent behaviors used to avoid weight gain or compensate for binge eating in binge-eating disorder. These behaviors are referred to as “compensatory behaviors” by professionals, and may include purging or extreme restriction of intake, among others. The binge-eating symptoms cannot occur exclusively during the course of anorexia. Repeated attempts to stop binge eating, or repeated attempts at dieting, do not exclude someone from a binge-eating disorder diagnosis.

    Remission from Binge-Eating Disorder

    The DSM-V also allows for professionals to specify if a person is in partial remission or in full remission (recovery) from binge-eating disorder. The severity, based on the average frequency of binge-eating episodes, can also be specified:

    • Mild: 1-3 episodes each week
    • Moderate: 4-7 episodes each week
    • Severe: 8-13 episodes each week
    • Extreme: 14 or more episodes each week

    It is important to note that, although many people with binge-eating disorder may be overweight or obese, there are many sufferers who are of a normal weight as well.

    Regardless of how frequent, if you or someone you know is struggling with binge-eating or compulsive overeating episodes, it is important to see a physician, dietician, or a mental-health professional for an assessment. Treatment is available and recovery is possible.


    American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

    American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., Text Revision). Washington, DC: Author.

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