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Binge Eating Disorder: signs, symptoms and treatment

Binge eating can be used as a way of coping for people with Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in mental-health

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Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a very common eating disorder. Many people over-eat occasionally, but people with Binge Eating Disorder feel as though they have completely lost control over their eating. Binge eating can become a way to cope with negative emotions, and BED creates an overwhelming urge to eat.

Binge Eating Disorder is not the same as comfort eating. Comfort eating is when a person eats because they are feeling down. While they are using food to deal with their emotions, they have the control to stop eating. A person with BED feels that they don't have any control over whether or not they stop eating.

Binge Eating Disorder is also different to Bulimia Nervosa, when a person will binge on food and later purge to compensate for all that they have eaten through exercise, vomiting, or laxatives. BED does not lead to an immediate purge after a binge.

Signs of Binge Eating Disorder

Signs of BED include:

  • Repeated episodes of binge eating
  • Feeling like your eating is out of control
  • Eating a lot faster than normal
  • Eating until you're feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating a lot, even when you're not hungry
  • Eating alone to hide your binge eating out of shame or embarrassment

The Diet/Binge Cycle

Symptoms of BED can often present in the form of a Diet/Binge cycle.

  • 1. Dieting: A person may feel bad about themselves and decide to go on a diet to feel better
  • 2. Urges to eat: After losing weight, this person might have an urge to eat something they've been avoiding. 
  • 3. Binging: After giving in to the urge to eat, they consider their whole diet ruined. The person starts to binge and over eat.
  • 4. Feelings of guilt or shame: After binging, the feelings of guilt and shame set back in.
  • 5. Repeating the cycle: The person goes back on a diet and begins the cycle again.

Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder can cause a number of problems for people, including emotional and physical. 


  • Feeling disgusted with your eating habits
  • Feeling inadequate or worthless
  • Feeling guilt or shame after binge eating
  • Experiencing depression and low moods
  • Feeling anxious
  • Struggling with body image
  • Having a low sense of self esteem


  • Gaining a lot of weight
  • Having problems with digesting food, including stomach pains, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea 

Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder

The best way to treat binge eating disorder is by reaching out and getting help. Remember that people can and do recover from eating disorders.

Going to your GP

Going to your GP is the first step towards recovering from BED. The doctor can assess your physical and psychological symptoms and refer you to the right place to help you overcome your eating disorder or offer you the right resources to help you. It's a good idea to talk to your GP even if you're not sure that you have BED or another eating disorder.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be used to support you with your recovery from binge eating disorder. CBT looks at the ways that our thoughts affect our behaviours and feelings, and can be used to help you work out what triggers your binge eating and to manage negative feelings about your body. It can also help you to create plans for meals and snacks and stick to your new eating habits.

Visit Bodywhys, the Eating Disorders Association of Ireland, for more information and support:

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Published Decem­ber 20th2012
Last updated Sep­tem­ber 25th2018
Tags food eating disorder mental health binge eating binge eating disorder
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