Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, and Overeating: Understanding the Differences

By Maria Tarchichi, Life Coach


Recent studies have discovered a substantial link between depression and overeating, especially when excess turns into binge eating.

The obsessive drive to eat more than you need  while never feeling fully satisfied is one of the most prominent signs of depression overeating. This is particularly true if you’re eating for emotional comfort as opposed to hunger.

So what’s the difference between binge eating, emotional eating and overeating?

First, let’s discover what is the scientific meaning of binge eating. As science describes it, binge eating is a biological reaction to some physical and/or emotional needs. It is not  classified by the amount of food you eat but the way you eat. For example,  rapid eating, not tasting the food, feeling  hard to stop until you are physically ill. In addition to the immense shame and guilt that you feel.

If you are asking yourself how should I stop binge eating, here’s the answer to your question. The most important thing that must be done is to address the unmet needs, and by unmet needs we mean the needs that a person didn’t manage to satisfy yet.

Binge eating isn’t the problem. Those needs (physical or emotional) are the problem. So, when you figure out where you’re needs aren’t being met, focus on that, and the binge eating will work itself out.

Second, in contrary of the above, the Emotional Eating is a response to a positive or negative feeling  a person is going through. However, this can be a coping mechanism when experiencing a negative emotion most likely a way to calm yourself down (or distract) when feeling an intense emotion. Also, it can be a respond to experiencing a positive emotion or feeling, which means that emotional eating can also be a way to celebrate a positive emotion like eating too much sweets for your birthday.

What can be done here ? To get rid of the emotional eating process, you must focus on the emotion itself and figure out if it’s contributed by stress. Then, try a stress management technique, such as yoga, meditation or deep breathing. So, as you begin to address the emotions, work on healing them and you will get rid of the emotional eating accordingly.

Third, what about Overeating ? In general overeating is a part of being human because sometimes we eat to feel more than full. This happens because sometimes our bodies are consuming so much energy and we got little too hungry. In addition to the type of food we’re eating , maybe we are eating something really delicious, and feeling that full filling is really worth it. In this case, you should listen to your body. This will happen because you are human – rather than trying to avoid getting really full, focus on listening to your body and responding to its cues. Fullness isn’t a bad thing – take away the judgment and accept the fact that food is delicious and sometimes we just get really full.

Finally, in all cases when you feel that things are out of your control, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

If you’ve tried self-help methods but you’re still unable to manage the three eating problems, think about seeing a therapist who’s specialized in mental health. You can develop coping mechanisms and get insight into why you eat in an unhealthy way through therapy. Additionally, therapy can assist you in determining whether you suffer from an eating disorder, or mental health issues that might affect you in different ways.

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