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What is a Compulsive Eater?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A compulsive eater is someone who eats without self-control and is typically someone who overeats during meals. Someone who suffers from this condition may also “graze” compulsively throughout the day, eating numerous small amounts that add up to overeating. This is typically seen as an eating disorder much like bulimia and is treated using similar methods such as therapy, behavioral modifications, and conditioning. A compulsive eater will often display a wide range of various symptoms beyond overeating, such as guilt over eating, an obsession with food, frequent diets that easily fail, and excessive weight gain.

Also called a compulsive overeater, a compulsive eater is someone who suffers from a compulsion to eat and is unable to properly control his or her impulses to eat food. This can take a number of different forms, though it will most commonly manifest as either extreme moments of binge eating or excessive grazing throughout the day. The binge eating commonly found in a compulsive eater differs from the binging of someone suffering from bulimia, however, since there is no purge afterward. Grazing typically consists of a person snacking repeatedly throughout the day, perhaps eating a few bites of something, then returning later for a few more bites, and repeating this action to an extreme extent.

A compulsive eater can be treated for the condition by a psychological professional or therapist, and the treatments are often similar to other eating disorders. Like other eating disorders, compulsive eating or overeating is considered to be a behavioral disorder and is treated through therapy and practice intended on helping a person change his or her behaviors. Someone who may overeat due to stress, for example, would be taught other ways to deal with his or her stress. A person who often eats when depressed would likely undergo therapy aimed at determining the root cause of his or her depression as well as learning new ways to deal with the depression.

While every compulsive eater is different, there are certain symptoms that are fairly common among them. There is usually a sense of guilt or shame associated with eating by an overeater, and he or she may not eat much in public but may still demonstrate weight gain. While excessive weight gain and obesity can be symptoms of overeating, they are not required and someone with average weight my still suffer from this condition. A compulsive eater will often obsess over food and secretly fantasize about eating, causing him or her to more often eat alone and feel embarrassment while eating.

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