It is possible to break out of the cycle of bingeing and restricting

Binge eating disorder can be an incredibly distressing illness.

It is more than over-eating in the sense that people can feel trapped in a cycle of bingeing and restricting, sometimes entering a ‘trance-like’ state when in the midst of their illness.

If this is your experience, know that you are not alone. There are people who understand and who can help.

What is binge eating disorder (BED)?

Binge eating disorder is when people eat large quantities of food – called bingeing – but don’t typically engage in compensatory behaviours such as with bulimia.

People often talk of entering a trance-like state when bingeing, or becoming preoccupied with planning their binges as they go about their everyday lives in work or education.

Despite how it can seem, like other eating disorders, BED is not about food. Rather, the symbolic act of bingeing can be understood as an attempt to negate or interrupt overwhelming negative emotions.

Binge eating disorder is not about food

Like other eating disorders, often there are underlying emotional factors that cause someone to seek soothing and solace through a preoccupation with food and eating.

Common symptoms

There’s no “one way” to have BED, however, there are shared characteristics and behavioural patterns that help in the diagnosis of the illness.

Often, people with BED eat large quantities of food – bingeing – but don’t engage in compensatory behaviours.

People with BED can feel a significant amount of shame and guilt associated with their symptoms, which traps them in the cycle of the illness.

Because of the secretive nature of the illness, and the fact that many people with BED maintain a “normal” weight, the illness often persists whilst someone is otherwise high-functioning in other areas of their lives.


It is more than just over-eating

Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between BED and overeating – as to occasionally overeat, and “comfort eat”, is normal behaviour for human beings.

One of the biggest differences between overeating and BED is that the person living with BED often feels that they do not have control over their urges to eat.

For many, the impulse to eat is an emotional response and a self-soothing behaviour, so have compassion for the part of you that might be trying very hard to keep you going in the midst of challenge.

Young people sitting

Do these feel familiar?

Eating uncontrollably (bingeing) and/or fear of eating uncontrollably

Consuming food in a fast and hurried way

Petty theft to get hold of food to binge on

Secretive eating and isolation in order to prevent feelings of shame or embarrassment

Acts of self-disgust and self-harm


Depression and other co-occurring conditions such as OCD

Low self-esteem

Preoccupation with body image and appearance

Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed or very guilty after bingeing

You deserve to break the cycle of binge eating disorder.

Often, people suffering with binge eating disorder struggle to manage their emotions in a healthy and intuitive way.

As such, our team works with the individual to forge new pathways and healthy coping mechanisms, whilst addressing any co-occurring conditions which may fuel or exacerbate the binge eating disorder behaviours.

Like with other eating disorder diagnoses, we believe that recovery is possible and that treatment should heal the individual as a whole, embracing the individual’s complexity and unique history.

Approximately 22% of all eating disorder diagnoses are binge eating disorder

Hay et al, 2017

What we understanding about BED

Only 6% of people with eating disorders are underweight. Unhelpful stereotypes persist and lead many to dismiss or minimize their experience. Binge eating disorder is not caused by a ‘lack of self control’. Rather, there are often underlying, complex emotional causes.

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