Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Two young women are deep in conversation about Binge Eating Disorder

T/W This article includes references to eating disorders. If you are impacted by this, or if someone you know is, contact our Crisis Messenger 24 hours a day or speak to our team, who are there to support you with whatever you’re going through

What is Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?

People with binge eating disorder (BED) have an uncontrollable urge to eat a lot over a short period of time, even when they’re not hungry. It’s similar to bulimia in this way, but without the purging. It can lead to weight gain and serious health problems if left untreated.

What is Compulsive Eating Disorder?

Compulsive eating disorder is just another name for binge eating disorder. They both refer to the same condition.

What causes binge and compulsive eating?

Like most eating disorders, BED can be the result of unrelated stressful factors in a person’s life and a way to feel more in control. It can also manifest as a coping mechanism if someone is unhappy or struggling with depression or low self-esteem. Ultimately, there are no concrete reasons why someone develops BED, but treating a person holistically by looking at the psychological, physiological and environmental factors can often uncover possible triggers and lead to recovery from their problematic eating behaviours.

Learn more about eating disorder treatment.

Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

  • Eating much more rapidly than usual
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry
  • Eating alone because of embarrassment at the quantities of food consumed
  • Feeling out of control around food
  • Feeling very self-conscious eating in front of others
  • Feeling ashamed, depressed or guilty after about their eating habits

Long-lasting effects of BED

Weight gain is the most common risk associated with BED, which may then lead to obesity if not treated early enough. Obesity is linked to multiple physical health problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and an increased risk of strokes. For these reasons it’s important for people with binge eating disorder to try and seek support as early as possible if you’re struggling with BED. With the right treatment, it’s possible to recover and get back to a healthy weight and eating pattern.

Although depression could be the initial trigger, it can also be a side-effect of it. BED can induce feelings of shame, guilt, and low self-esteem and body image, which can lead to depression or anxiety.

Treatment for BED

The best way to stop binge or compulsive eating is to speak to your GP. It might feel hard at first, but they are there to help you and will be able to figure out the best way to do it. Try to avoid trying to solve it yourself by skipping meals or crash dieting as this won’t treat the real cause of the problem. For BED treatment, it is common for your GP to suggest self-help initially. They can provide suggestions for books, videos and other materials, as well as support groups for you to attend. These will give you a better insight into why you’re binge eating and how to recalibrate the way you think about food.

Eating disorder therapy

If you or your GP feel you need further help, you can be referred for talking treatments, such as counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or psychotherapy. Talking to a professional about your thoughts, feelings and behaviours can be very effective in unearthing certain triggers and controlling negative thought patterns to help change the way you think about food and yourself.

Alternatives to your GP

Reaching out to friends and family is also an important step in recovery. Basically, just speaking out full stop is the hardest but bravest and best step to make when seeking support and treatment. There are people out there who will do their utmost to help you in your recovery.

You can also get support from the team here at The Mix. You can speak to us anonymously if you like, we’re here to listen to and support you no matter what. Click here to get in touch.

If you’re nervous about seeing your GP, that’s ok. You can always talk to Beat, the UK’s leading eating disorder charity for support. Their youth helpline is open every day, 4pm – 10pm, England: 0808 801 0677 Scotland: 0808 801 0432 Wales: 0808 801 0433 Northern Ireland: 0808 801 0434.

Next Steps

By Holly Turner

Updated on 09-May-2023