Anxiety in Adults

Binge Eating

What is Binge Eating

A binge is characterised by eating an excessive amount of food in a short period of time and experiencing a sense of feeling out of control within this context. Some individuals eat a smaller amount of food, but still feel out of control and we refer to these instances as ‘subjective binges’. It is important to note that the level of distress and severity of illness is the same for both objective and subjective binges

We can differentiate binge eating from comfort eating by both the out of control feelings that come with binge eating, and also the amount of food consumed. Binge eating is a feature of many eating disorders, including Binge Eating Disorder, Bulimia Nervosa, and Anorexia Nervosa. Binge eating can often co-occur with other mental health difficulties such as Complex PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder, depression as well as a wide range of anxiety disorders including Social Phobia and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Symptom Checklist

  • Have you had episodes in which you ate a large amount of food in a short period of time? During these episodes did you feel as though you were ‘out of control’
  • Did you compensate for these episodes by engaging in behaviours such as self-induced vomiting, taking laxatives or diet pills, exercising compulsively or restricting your food intake?
  • Do you think a lot about your eating, shape and weight?
  • Do you try to conceal your eating habits from others?
  • Do you experience high levels of shame, guilt or embarrassment as a result of your eating behaviours?

How Common is Binge Eating?

Due to the secretive nature of eating disorders, they often go undetected for many years, and the onset is usually during adolescence. Research indicates that approximately 4% of the population has an eating disorder at any one time, and approximately 20% of females have an undiagnosed eating disorder. Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder, accounting for approximately half of all eating disorders.

Although eating disorders are still more common in females, the rates of eating disorder diagnoses in males is increasing. Eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness in young women.

What Treatments are Recommended for Binge Eating?

The most widely researched psychological treatment for binge eating is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT for binge eating disorder involves self-monitoring your thoughts and emotions regarding food, identifying triggers for episodes of binge eating, establishing regular eating patterns and also addressing negative body image if this is also a concern.

Early intervention is very important, particularly if the binge eating occurs within the context of Anorexia Nervosa, as this can become a chronic and debilitating disorder if left untreated.

Family involvement is an essential element of binge eating disorder treatment, and Family Based Treatment is the recommended treatment for adolescents with an eating disorder.

Sources & Useful Resources