What Is Compulsive Eating? Signs & Treatment

Compulsive eating is a common type of eating disorder. It can cause serious health issues linked to dietary habits, such as diabetes and high cholesterol.

If you want to know more about compulsive eating, read further to find what it means, its symptoms, and treatment.

What is Compulsive Eating?

Compulsive eating is characterized by a tendency to eat a higher quantity of food in a shorter duration of time. Patients with this disorder often continue to eat even if they are not hungry. Mental stress often plays a key role in triggering the periods of binge eating in such cases.

The patient might feel a sense of relief or relaxation during a binge. However, this is often followed by a feeling of shame, guilt, or loss of control.

Common Symptoms of Compulsive Eating

A healthcare professional would diagnose compulsive eating when 3 or more of the symptoms mentioned below are present:

  • Eating more rapidly than usual
  • Eating alone due to the feeling of being ashamed or embarrassed
  • Eating a large amount of food even when not feeling hungry
  • Eating until the patient feels extremely uncomfortable and too full
  • Feelings of disgust and guilt with oneself
  • A feeling of extreme distress about their habit of overeating, weight, and body shape

Make an appointment with Dr. Sean Paul to see if your eating patterns should be evaluated more closely.


Compulsive eating is likely to occur due to a variety of factors, including:

  • Genetics or family history
  • It is more common in females than in males
  • Changes in the brain resulting in a heightened response to foods and loss of self-control
  • Being obese
  • A negative body image
  • Emotional trauma due to stressful life events like abuse, separation from or death of a family member, or childhood bullying


The treatment of compulsive eating depends on the cause and severity of abnormal eating habits and individual goals.

Treatment may be targeted at correcting the binge eating behaviors while managing the underlying factors. These factors may include excess weight, obesity, body image, and mental health issues.

Options may include interpersonal psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, weight loss therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and medications.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy focused on the relationship between negative emotions, and behaviors related to eating, weight, and body shape.

Once the causes of negative patterns and emotions are identified, the physician will recommend strategies to help the patient change them.

Interpersonal psychotherapy offers a coping mechanism for addressing unresolved personal problems like grief, significant life changes, relationship conflicts, and social problems.

Dialectical behavior therapy views compulsive eating as an emotional response to negative experiences. This type of therapy will work to teach the patient how to regulate the unhealthy emotional responses without binging.

Compulsive eating may occur due to a variety of causes and risk factors. Detecting this eating disorder early could help a person receive treatment and prevent more serious complications from developing in the future.