Binge eating disorder involves regularly eating a lot of food over a short period of time until you’re uncomfortably full.
Binges are often planned in advance, usually done alone, and may include “special” binge foods. You may feel guilty or ashamed after binge eating.
Men and women of any age can get binge eating disorder, but it usually starts in the late teens or early 20s.
Symptoms of binge eating disorder
The main symptom of binge eating disorder is eating a lot of food in a short time and not being able to stop when full. Other symptoms include:
- eating when not hungry
- eating very fast during a binge
- eating alone or secretly
- feeling depressed, guilty, ashamed or disgusted after binge eating
People who regularly eat in this way may have binge eating disorder.
Warning signs of binge eating disorder in someone else
Someone you care about may have an eating disorder if they:
- eat a lot of food, very quickly
- try to hide how much they’re eating
- store up supplies of food
- put on weight (but this does not happen to everyone with binge eating disorder)
Getting help for binge eating disorder
If you think you may have binge eating disorder, see a GP as soon as you can.
They’ll ask you about your eating habits and how you’re feeling, and check your weight and overall health.
The GP should refer you to an eating disorder specialist or team of specialists if they think you have binge eating disorder or another eating disorder.
It can be hard to admit you need help with an eating disorder, so bringing a friend or loved one with you to your appointment may help.
You can also talk in confidence to an adviser from eating disorders charity Beat by calling its adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline on 0808 801 0711.
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 a GP. You could offer to go along with them.
Treatment for binge eating
Most people recover from binge eating disorder with the right support and treatment, but it may take time.
The main treatments are:
- guided self-help programmes
- a type of talking therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which is in group sessions or individual (1-on-1) sessions
Causes of binge eating
The exact causes of binge eating disorder are not known, but you are more likely to have an eating disorder if:
- you or a member of your family has a history of eating disorders, depression, or alcohol or drug misuse
- you’ve been criticised for your eating habits, body shape or weight
- you’re too worried about being slim, particularly if you also feel pressure from society or your job, for example, ballet dancers, models or athletes
- you have anxiety, low self-esteem, an obsessive personality or are a perfectionist
- you’ve been sexually abused
This information is reprinted with permission from the NHS mental health website. All information correct as of March 2020. This information should not constitute medical advice, and is not intended to replace medical diagnosis by a professional. If you are concerned about this issue, please speak to your GP in the first instance.