Binge eating disorder myths and misconceptions

Binge eating disorder is one of the most common eating disorders, yet myths and stereotypes prevail that create barriers to receiving specialist help for recovery. We discuss these myths – and the facts – further below.

Myth 1: Binge eating is just overeating

This is one of the most common myths about binge eating disorder.

Many people use the term ‘binge’ to explain more normative behaviour, such as overeating during Christmas time or binge-watching Netflix during lockdown.

Binge eating is more than just overeating – which we all do on occasion. If someone was to indulge a little bit more on their birthday or over a ‘normal’ meal this does not mean that they have an eating disorder.

One of the biggest differences between the two is that a person suffering from binge eating disorder often does not feel like they are able to control their urges to eat, and this is often an emotional response and self-soothing behaviour. Binge eating disorder has the following symptoms which differentiate it from over-eating:

  • Feeling out of control when eating (feeling as though one can not stop eating or control how much one is eating)
  • Eating alone in order to prevent feelings of shame or embarrassment
  • Consuming food in a fast and hurried way
  • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterwards

Myth 2: In order to recover from binge eating disorder, I need to eat less and restrict my food intake

This is the biggest mistake that people suffering from binge eating disorder can do and it can be extremely painful for sufferers to hear this recommended from the people that they love, such as friends, partners and even sadly some healthcare professionals.

This myth is extremely damaging as it implies that suffers do not have enough ‘self-control’ to manage their food intake. It also implies “willpower” is all that’s needed.

By following a very restrictive diet, people struggling with binge eating disorder can often feel quite deprived and therefore this exacerbates binge eating behaviour. This therefore leaves the individual feeling more like a failure than they often already do.

Eating disorders are about the feelings, not about the food. The food is used to soothe emotional distress and that needs to be worked on in therapy, whilst concurrently following a well-balanced meal plan that will not leave one feeling deprived.

The therapeutic work will entail helping the individual to learn to cope with their psychological feelings and relationship with food and to help them recognize things that trigger binge eating behaviours.

Myth 3: Binge eating is not as bad as other eating disorders

This is completely and utterly not the case.

Binge eating disorder is a serious mental health disorder which can seriously impact one’s quality of life and even lead to death.

Common health conditions associated with the binge eating disorder can include diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and high blood pressure. Not to mention, the significant effects on one’s mental health such as anxiety, depression, and feelings of low self-worth.

Binge eating disorder can be extremely debilitating and often people struggling with this eating disorder feel isolated, alone and a lot of shame around their eating behaviour.

Myth 4: People with binge eating disorder are overweight or obese

This is a serious misconception, which often leads to people suffering from binge eating disorder not receiving appropriate support and treatment.

Eating disorders do not discriminate, and those suffering from binge eating disorder can come in any shape or form.

Individuals suffering from eating disorders can be very ‘all or nothing’ in their thinking and behaviour. Some individuals may binge once a day but restrict the rest of the day, and others may binge three times a day- everyone is different and therefore every ‘body’ is different.

It is true that binge eating disorder can result in individuals struggling to control their weight and many people with the condition are overweight due to this.

Learn more about our binge eating programme.

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