Compulsive Overeating Symptoms & Signs

Carolina House provides leading compulsive overeating treatment to ensure long-lasting recovery for a healthier and more satisfying life.

Understanding Compulsive Overeating

Learn about compulsive overeating treatment

Compulsive overeating, which is also commonly referred to as compulsive eating, is characterized by eating significant amounts of food in response to stresses, unpleasant issues they are struggling with, or emotions that they are not able to properly manage. Unlike those who have bulimia nervosa, people who struggle with compulsive overeating typically do not purge after they eat. However, compulsively overeating can lead to serious damage to one’s health, both physically and psychologically.

Compulsive overeating tends to be confused with binge-eating, however those who have binge-eating disorder will consume great deals of food in a single sitting, while those who compulsively overeat might not eat in excess each time they consume food. However, these individuals will keep eating throughout the day, even if it is small amounts at a time. However, because of the nature in which these individuals are consuming food, those consistent and small portions often lead to overeating.

While the presence of compulsive eating patterns can be destructive to an individual’s life, there are treatment options available that can help alleviate these symptoms, all while teaching individuals how to establish new and health habits of eating that reflects healthy self-worth.


Compulsive overeating statistics

There are few statistics that reflect the number of people who partake in compulsive overeating. However, general estimates show that roughly 2% of the general population is impacted by these behaviors, and 8% of the population who battle obesity engage in compulsive overeating.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for compulsive overeating

The are many causes and risk factors for compulsive overeating. Below are some of the explanations for this disorder:

Genetic: Genetics can impact the development of a compulsive eating disorder and food addiction. Those who have biological family members who struggle with this condition are at a greater risk for struggling with similar issues, than those who do not have the family background.

Environmental: Some of the many environmental factors that can increase an individual’s odds of developing compulsive overeating habits can include experiencing a traumatic event or being a victim of abuse and/or neglect. Overeating is used in an attempt to help numb the pain felt as a result of those issues. In addition, if an individual spends time in an environment where a great deal of time and energy is spent on food, dieting, and weight, they are more likely to develop behaviors consistent with compulsive overeating.

Risk Factors:

  • Experiencing a traumatic event
  • Being the victim of abuse and/or neglect
  • Low self-esteem
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Family history of eating disorders or compulsive overeating behaviors

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of compulsive overeating

Some of the many signs and symptoms that an individual might exhibit when participating in compulsive eating behaviors can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Making self-defeating statements about how much food one eats
  • No longer participating in activities one once enjoyed
  • Social isolation
  • Eating uncontrollably, even when not hungry
  • Eating much more rapidly than is considered normal
  • Eating alone
  • Hiding food
  • Participating in unsuccessful dieting attempts

Physical symptoms:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep apnea
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Preoccupation with food
  • Preoccupation with body weight
  • Minimized or complete loss of sex drive

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • Feeling disgusted with oneself
  • Mood swings
  • Depression


Effects of compulsive overeating

When left untreated, the long-term effects of compulsive overeating can be dangerous to an individual’s physical and psychological wellbeing. Some of these effects can include:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Arthritis
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Bone deterioration
  • Excessive anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Major depression

Co-Occurring Disorders

Compulsive overeating and co-occurring disorders

While compulsive overeating is not considered a diagnosable disorder, the patterns of behavior that occur when an individual is battling with this condition can occur alongside of other mental health conditions, such as:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder

Things were getting worse and worse before coming to Carolina House, but my now my life has never been better. I can't remember the last time I felt so happy and confident with myself. I couldn't have got here without them.

– a former resident
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