Understanding Binge Eating

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Everyone is guilty of over eating at one time or another, Christmas is a prime example of a period people tend to over eat.  However this should not be confused with binge eating disorder which is a serious mental health condition.  It causes people to eat large amounts quickly and on a regular basis to the point they feel uncomfortably full.  Unlike people with bulimia they do not purge after eating but can feel ashamed, guilty or disgusted at themselves afterwards. 

You can develop binge eating at any stage in your life, but it most commonly starts in teenage years.  People who binge will do so in secret often planning what they will eat in advance picking special foods to binge on.


As with many other eating disorders the reasons for binge eating are not fully known, however there are several factors that can contribute.  It’s believed that a person’s biology as well as changes in certain brain chemicals can affect eating habits.  Eating disorders can also run in families and learnt behaviour from family members that over eat can be a factor. 

Sexual abuse, poor body image, anxiety, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) or low-self-esteem can also be triggers.  People who have been criticised for their weight or eating habits or feel pressured to be slim because of their careers, like athletes, models, dancers and celebrities are also more likely to develop the disorder.

Physical Symptoms

·      Fluctuations in weight both gains and losses

·      Stomach cramps or pains

·      Constipation

·      Acid reflux

·      Problems concentrating

Psychological Symptoms

·      Low self-esteem or self-worth

·      Feeling ashamed or disgusted after binging

·      Feeling guilt or embarrassment

·      Depression

Behavioural Changes

·      Being uncomfortable eating around other people

·      Spending less time with friends or doing hobbies

·      Frequent dieting

·      Lifestyle changes to accommodate binging

·      Hiding or stealing food and hoarding it

·      Trying different food fads or cutting out food groups

·      Eating alone                         

·      Showing extreme concern about their shape and weight

Self Help


There are lots of organisations on line who can help you if you are struggling to overcome binge eating, by providing you with support or information.

You might find that keeping a journal of when you binge and how you feel when you do, can help you understand what triggers it.  If you learn to recognise what emotions cause it, you can learn ways to deal with them other than binging.

Although people can binge when they are not hungry, eating regularly can stop your blood sugars from spiking and if you don’t feel hungry you may feel less likely to binge.  Eating regularly and snacking healthily as well as portioning your food before eating can also help.

Professional Help

You should contact your doctor if you think you have any kind of eating disorder as they will hopefully be able to refer you to the appropriate specialist eating disorder team.  They may also recommend that you try therapy to help you understand why you binge eat. Talking therapies such as counselling, psychotherapy and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) are all proven to be successful in helping people to understand and overcome their binging urges.  Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK).  For more free information click above link.

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