Eating Disorder Recovery

Binge-Eating Disorder

What is Binge-Eating Disorder?

Binge-eating disorder is a type of eating disorder characterised by regularly eating a lot of food, over a short period of time, until you’re uncomfortably full. A key feature of a binge episode is a sense of having lost control over eating. People who struggle with binge-eating disorder do not “make up” for the binge by compensating with vomiting, laxatives, diet pills or fasting. 

People often feel incredibly guilty and ashamed after eating and this can impact other areas of their mental health (low mood, shame, poor self-esteem). There can also be an impact on physical health such as stomach pain, bloating, and weight gain. For people with other health conditions (e.g. diabetes), binges can  lead to complications as binge foods tend to be high in carbohydrates and sugars. 


Frequently eat large amounts of food?


Feel you’ve totally lost control of your eating at these times?


Eat until you feel uncomfortably full or even in pain?


Feel awful, guilty or ashamed after a binge?


Find yourself thinking about food or eating all the time?


Eat to cope with stress, sadness, anxiety or loneliness?


Hide food, eat in secret, or throw away empty packets before others can see them?


Hate how your body looks or how much you weigh?

Causes of Binge-Eating Disorder

The causes of binge-eating disorder will be specific to the person and we recommend a specialist assessment to understand what is keeping your binge-eating problem going. There are however some common themes that we see people struggle with. 

  1. Emotional links: we know that people with binge-eating disorder are more likely to struggle with feelings of anxiety and depression. Often people binge eat to cope with overwhelming negative emotions. Whilst people might feel better in the moment, afterwards they almost always feel worse. 

  2. Under-eating: lots of people with binge-eating disorder worry about their weight and have poor body image. Others are worried about the health consequences of gaining weight or obesity. Often people try to diet to tackle these worries but find themselves eating out of control by the afternoon or evening. We know that it is important to repair our relationship with food before moving on to weight loss goals (if medically appropriate).


  3. Food rules: Often linked with dieting, some people try to avoid certain types of food (carbohydrates, surgery foods, “junk” foods). If someone ends up eating a small amount of these foods they often find this can trigger a binge as they feel they’ve already messed up or failed to stick to the diet rule.


  4. Alcohol or drugs: we know that people are more vulnerable to binge-eating if they have been drinking or taking recreational drugs. This is because our ability to control our impulses are reduced.

Treatment for Binge-Eating Disorder

After an assessment your psychologist will put together an initial understanding of what has caused and maintained the binge-eating problem. They will then discuss with you the best treatment approach. 

Cognitive behaviour therapy for binge eating disorder has the strongest evidence base. CBT will help you to address both the emotional and the physical causes of binge-eating and help you build a better understanding of the links between how you manage your emotions and food. Sessions usually start with a period of stabilising eating patterns, focussing on addressing worries about food and body weight. Sessions then move on to addressing they emotional links with binge-eating, body image and finishes with a plan to stay well. Depending on the person, sessions may also include other aspects (e.g., low self-esteem, perfectionism, emotion regulation).

Usually 10-20 sessions are needed to successfully treat binge-eating disorder, the specific number of sessions needed will be discussed after the assessment session. 

If you’re interested in learning more about our therapy services for binge-eating disorder, we invite you to book a 15-minute consultation to find out if we are a good fit.