Binge eating disorder
Binge eating disorder involves regularly eating large portions of food all at once until you feel uncomfortably full, and then often upset or guilty. Men and women of any age can get binge eating disorder, but it typically begins in the late teens or early 20s.
Symptoms of binge eating disorder
Binges are often pre-planned and the person may buy ‘special’ binge foods.
The main symptom of binge eating disorder is eating very large amounts of food in a short time. This is often in an out-of-control way. But symptoms may also include:
- eating very fast during a binge
- eating until you feel uncomfortably full
- eating when you're not hungry
- eating alone or secretly
- feeling depressed, guilty, ashamed or disgusted after binge eating
If you recognise these symptoms in yourself or someone else, you should seek help, see section below.
Getting help for binge eating disorder
If you think you may have binge eating disorder, see your GP as soon as you can.
They will ask you questions about your eating habits and how you're feeling, and will check your weight and overall health.
If they think you may have binge eating disorder, or another eating disorder, your GP should refer you to an eating disorder specialist or team of specialists.
It can be very hard to admit you have a problem and to ask for help. It may make things easier if you bring a friend or loved one with you to your appointment.
You may also want to seek advice from an eating disorder support group such as Eating Disorders Association NI.
Getting help for someone else
If you're concerned that a family member or friend may have binge eating disorder, let them know you're worried about them and encourage them to see their GP. You could offer to go along with them.
Treatment for binge eating
With the right treatment and support, most people recover from binge eating disorder, but it may take time.
The main treatments for binge eating include:
- guided self-help programmes
- a type of talking therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – in group sessions or individual (one-on-one) sessions
Binge eating disorder often causes weight gain (though not always). This can lead to other health problems.
You shouldn't try to diet while you are having treatment as it can make your binge eating worse.
Causes of binge eating
It is not known exactly what causes binge eating disorder and other eating disorders. You may be more likely to get an eating disorder if:
- you or a member of your family has a history of eating disorders, depression, or alcohol or drug addiction
- you have been criticised for your eating habits, body shape or weight
- you are overly concerned with being slim, particularly if you also feel pressure from society or your job – for example, ballet dancers, jockeys, models or athletes
- you have anxiety, low self-esteem, an obsessive personality or are a perfectionist
- you have been sexually abused
More useful links
The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.
For further information see terms and conditions.