Binge Eating Disorder and Symptoms

Food is one of the many channels through which your emotions can be expressed, and although most people have had times when they have eaten too much, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) sufferers can’t stop, even if uncomfortably full, and feel great shame about their eating habits.

No matter the severity of your binge eating disorder, there is hope, you can overcome the out-of-control feelings through treatment and therapy. If you are concerned about your eating habits please reach out for help.

This article looks at the symptoms, causes, and health risks of BED, as well as how to get help and support to overcome it.

What is a Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is classified as a mental health issue and is now recognised as an official diagnosis, researchers have found that depression often goes hand in hand with how food is perceived and are looking into the correlation between how brain chemicals and metabolism influence binge eating disorders. (Binge Eating Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and More)

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) can occur at any time of the day and is not about food alone, that is why it is now recognised as a psychiatric disorder (Binge Eating Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment) categorised by episodes of compulsive overeating or eating an inordinately large amount of food and feeling unable to stop or control this behaviour.

People suffering from BED often experience feelings of guilt, embarrassment, as well as shame, and this further impacts the existing mental health issues that are contributing to binge eating.


binge eating

What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?

Bad eating habits and unhealthy relationships with food devolve into eating disorders and become toxic when a person becomes fixated with feelings that they are not worthy or good enough by the standards set out in society, this, in turn, becomes a dangerous mirror for a person predisposed to a mental health issue.

The causes of BED are likely due to a variety of risk factors including:

As with other eating disorders, a variety of genetic, environmental, social, and psychological risks are associated with the development of BED making treatment possible if a multifaceted approach is taken to address all aspects of the disorder.

Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

BED is a complex mental health issue that doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone. Since the causes can include emotional triggers like stress or distress, a person with BED might feel a sense of release or relief during an episode, unfortunately, these feelings may be followed by feelings of intense shame at losing control.

For a diagnosis of BED to be made, your doctor may ask a few questions such as:

    1. Once you start eating, can you stop?
    2. How do you feel about how much you eat?
    3. Do you eat fast?
    4. Do you keep eating even after you’re uncomfortably full?
    5. Have you ever lied to someone about how much you eat?
    6. Do you want to eat alone? Why?

(Binge Eating Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and More)

People with a binge eating disorder will often try to hide their eating habits but the questions must be answered openly and honestly to determine the severity of the BED.

Once a diagnosis has been determined, BED treatment plans can be structured around the causes, triggers, and the development of healthy coping skills.

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Overeating vs. Binge Eating

Whilst both may involve mindless eating without thinking about the reason, there are vast differences between the two:

Overeating examples would be :

  • Having a full bag of crisps whilst waiting to collect the kids from sports practice
  • Finishing a whole chocolate bar whilst watching the telly
  • Occasionally having an extra helping of pudding after dinner

Overeating examples would be :

  • Having a full bag of crisps whilst waiting to collect the kids from sports practice
  • Finishing a whole chocolate bar whilst watching the telly
  • Occasionally having an extra helping of pudding after dinner

The Dangers Associated with Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) causes significant social, emotional and physical health risks:


  • Obesity due to increased calorie intake during episodes




    • Sleep problems


    • Chronic pain


    • Asthma


    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome


    • Fertility problems


    • Pregnancy complications


    • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)


    • Depression


Additionally, the cost to healthcare systems increases due to a higher rate of hospitalisation, outpatient care, and emergency department visits, compared with those who don’t have a feeding or eating disorder.

Although the health care risks may seem significant and difficult to overcome, there are several effective treatments available for BED

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    Getting Help for Binge Eating Disorder

    Overcoming BED is not about willpower, a comprehensive treatment approach will be needed to change a negative perception of self, understand the causes, and develop healthy coping skills to handle triggers and stressors.

    Treatment will differ according to each person’s needs but is typically a combination of:

    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

    Focuses on changing the automatic negative thoughts that contribute to and worsen BED, emotional responses, depression, and anxiety, replacing these thoughts with more objective and realistic thoughts. CBT is the most effective treatment currently available ()

    Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

    It is a 12-16 week treatment therapy based on the concept that BED is a coping mechanism for underlying, unresolved personal problems and offering constructive changes to effectively assist people with severe forms of BED and low self-esteem.


    Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

    It uses mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness to regulate the emotional responses of a person with BED so they can cope with everyday situations without binging.

    Weight Loss Therapy

    It focuses on weight loss in the hopes that this will improve body image perceptions and can be useful in some people but doesn’t have as much success as CBT or interpersonal therapy as it is only a short-term solution with moderate weight loss achievements.

    Medication may be used to curb the binge eating need, although cheaper than therapy, medication alone does not address the underlying mental health contributors to BED and should only be used under the care of a doctor and as part of a combination treatment.

    No matter which treatment strategy or combination is used, it is important to also make healthy lifestyle and diet choices when possible. A medical professional or treatment team can offer advice on how to implement these changes. The options available range from private treatment at outpatient facilities and hospitals to in-care residential treatment centres and hospitals.

    Mental disorders and binge eating disorders require compassionate treatment and support to help a person suffering from BED understand that their perception of themselves as being ‘not good enough is a false statement. A person that suffers from BED not only needs a medical treatment plan as detailed above, they also require a strong support network from loved ones to help curb and identify triggers.

    In the UK the following support groups are available as long-term support networks and can also assist with putting together a treatment plan and team to assist you:
    Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous (ABA)
    Overeaters Anonymous Great Britain | For anyone with eating issues
    Eating Disorders Anonymous – The only requirement for membership is a desire to recover from an eating disorder.

    Frequently Asked Questions
    You may have a lot of questions about amphetamine detox. If you are unable to find the answer below please give us a call and speak to one of our addiction specialists today.
    Are eating disorders genetic?
    Eating disorders tend to run in families, some influence is due to genetic makeup, but often its the behaviour towards food experienced during childhood coupled with other triggers that cause BED
    How can I recover from a Binge eating disorder?
    Recovery from BED is not a quick or easy journey but along with the treatment options above, self-help is also possible through keeping a food and mood diary, practising mindfulness, finding support, choosing healthy foods, exercising, and getting enough sleep. (Why Am I Binge Eating? 6 Reasons You Might Binge Eat)
    Are eating disorders a form of mental illness?
    Eating disorders including BED have been recognised as a mental illness and area DSM-5 diagnosis and is therefore treated as such. treatment is effective when approached holistically through the introduction of a healthy eating plan together with therapy is extremely necessary.
    How can I support someone with an eating disorder?
    The first step to supporting a loved one is to understand that Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is not a choice, and simply down to willpower, a person suffering from BED has deep-rooted guilt and shame about their eating habits and needs love, understanding and compassion.
    Understanding your reactions to your loved ones BED and the role you play can go a long way to developing a healthy caring approach.
    How is Binge Eating Disorder diagnosed?
    BED is initially diagnosed based on the symptoms displayed by the person suffering from the disorder. A doctor needs to be engaged to run tests on the person to confirm the initial diagnosis:

    • A physical exam
    • Specific lab tests are conducted in some cases
    • psychological evaluation.

    The person may then need to be monitored to gauge the severity of the condition and to ensure a focused approach to recovery.

    Jason Sheirs
    Author / Jason Shiers / Dip. Psych MBACP
    Jason Shiers is a Certified Transformative Coach & Certified Psychotherapist who is a specialist in addiction, trauma and eating disorders. He has been working in the field of addiction for 25 years now.