Personally, I think it’s time we talk about binge eating disorder (BED) an eating disorder that is not spoke about enough, one that is serious and needs to be more recognised. It is a serious mental illness were people will experience a loss of control and eat large quantities of food on a regular basis. It can affect literally anybody, any age, gender or background.

People who suffer with BED eat obscene amounts of food, over a very short period of time, something that is commonly known as bingeing. Binge eating disorder is not about choosing to eat extra-large portions, it’s not about people who suffer ‘overindulging’ it’s far from being enjoyable, binges are very distressing. The sufferer will find it difficult to stop during a binge episode even if they want too, and some people with BED have described the feeling of feeling disconnected from what they’re doing during a binge, or even struggle to remember what they’ve eaten afterwards. 

Binges can be planned and can involve the person who suffers buying foods that they would consider ‘special’, or they could be more spontaneous. Binge eating takes place in private, but sometimes you won’t even know they have a problem, because they will eat normal meals infront of people, outside of their binges. They will suffer with guilt and disgust at the lack of control they have during and after a binge eating episode. Unlike those with bulimia, people with BED do not regularly use purging methods after a binge. 

Binge eating disorder comes with episodes that are associated with eating much more rapidly than normal, eating until feeling uncomfortably full,  eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry, eating alone through embarrassment at the amount being eaten, and feelings of utter failure after the binge. 

Signs of binge eating disorder:

Sings of having BED can vary but if someone’s symptoms don’t exactly match all the criteria a doctor checks for to diagnose binge eating disorder, this means that the binges don’t occur as much as expected- they might be diagnosed with OSFED (other specified feeding or eating disorder). This is still as serious as any eating disorder.

It is more likely for those who suffer from BED to have weight gain, and can also lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. People may also have low self-esteem and lack of confidence, depression and anxiety. As with any eating disorder, it’s likely to make changes in behaviour and feelings that those around them notice first, before any physical symptoms become apparent.

Obesity is not an eating disorder, but some people often become overweight because of emotional difficulties, and being overweight can lead to emotional difficulties. Low self-esteem, guilt, shame and social isolation. The relationship between weight, size and health is a difficult one.

Behavioural signs:

  • Hoarding food
  • Eating very rapidly
  • Eating when not hungry at all
  • Eating till you feel physically sick/uncomfortably full
  • Buying lots of food
  • Organising life around a binge eating episode
  • Social withdrawal and isolation

Psychological signs:

  • A sense of being out of control around food, or a loss of control over eating
  • Low confidence and self-esteem
  • Feelings of shame and guilt after bingeing
  • Spending a lot or most of their time thinking about food
  • Feeling an intense amount of anxiousness and tension, especially when over eating infront of others

Physical signs:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Tiredness
  • Intense weight gain

Possible long-term effects of BED:

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Joint and back pain
  • Difficulty conceiving
  • Heart disease

Treatment for binge eating disorder:

Binge eating disorder is a serious mental illness where people experience a loss of control. If you’re worried that you or anyone you know is suffering with BED, it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible to ensure the best chance to recovery. The first step is usually to book a GP appointment, it can be difficult at times to talk about your illness and opening up to a doctor, but you have to remember that is is an illness and it is as serious as every other eating disorder, even if people say it’s not. It is not your fault, you deserve to get better.

The recommended treating for BED are mainly based around cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a talking therapy that aims to help you deal positively with the underlying thoughts and feelings that cause the illness by breaking problems down into smaller parts, to show you how to change the negative patterns to improve the way you feel.

It can vary from getting self-help which is solidly focused specifically on BED as the first step. This should use self-help materials based around CBT and should involve supportive sessions over the course of the programme to help ensure it’s effectiveness. If guided self-help isn’t appropriate for you, it is recommended that groups that focus on eating disorders, will be more effective.

Going to a support group or a self-help where you’re able to talk to others going through similar experiences can be a lot more useful to both sufferers and their families throughout treatment and in sustaining recovery.

Ways you can help yourself: 

  • Monitor what you’re eating- this can help you notice and try to change the patterns in your behaviour
  • Make realistic meal plans- planning what and when you intend to eat throughout the day can help regulate your eating, prevent hunger and reduce the binge episodes
  • Identify the underlying cause of your disorder- this means you can work on those issues in a healthier way
  • Find other ways of coping with your feelings
  • Learn about triggers- this can help you to recognise the signs, intervene and prevent a binge
  • Understand and learn how to manage your weight in a healthier way

Call Eating Recovery Centre on 877-711-1690

Call Beat on helpline: 0808 801 0677 or email Youthline for under 18’s: 0808 801 0711 or email on 0808 801 0811.

Call SEED on 01482 718130 or email

MGEDT (Men get Eating Disorders Too)  email

Journalism Student