Binge eating disorder (BED) help and treatment

Although it has only recently been recognised as an eating disorder, binge eating disorder (BED) is in fact, a fairly common occurrence. This self-help page is aimed at helping you to understand the causes and symptoms of BED, and the treatment that is available to you.

What is BED?

BED is an eating disorder characterised by overeating in binges, often when you are not hungry. Unlike bulimia, you do not make yourself sick or take laxatives after binge eating. In the long term, this can lead to you becoming overweight.

What causes BED?

As with other eating disorders, a combination of factors including psychological, genetic and socio-cultural can lead to someone needing help for binge eating. These include:

  • Low self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Social and cultural pressures to attain a certain type of 'ideal' body
  • If a family member has experienced an eating disorder
  • The pressing need to alter/numb negative emotional states such as anxiety, depression, anger and feelings of emotional ‘emptiness’,  by using food
  • Stress or traumatic events
  • As a result of a strict diet that excluded certain food groups, involved calorie control or skipping meals

What are the symptoms of BED?

Not everyone will show the same signs, but the most common are:

  • Binge eating when you are not hungry
  • Chaotic eating habits
  • Eating until you are uncomfortably full
  • Eating alone because you are embarrassed about how much you have eaten
  • Feeling ashamed, depressed or guilty after binge eating

Who is affected by BED?

BED affects both men and women equally, at any age, however it most commonly occurs between the ages of 20 and 40. BED affects the whole family. Loved ones often find it hard to understand that BED is actually about feelings and coping, rather than food. This can lead to misunderstandings and arguments, particularly at meal times. 

Most families benefit from family help aimed at supporting and managing any difficult relationships.

The effects of BED

BED can lead to serious physical and psychological problems over time, including:

  • Lack of fitness and general ill health from a lack of healthy nutrition
  • Obesity and its associated illnesses, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart disease and diabetes
  • Problems with relationships, where your relationship with food can take priority over relationships with loved ones
  • Depression, stress, anxiety, low self-esteem and social isolation
  • An increased likelihood of developing certain cancers

Care and management of BED

BED needs specialist help to treat both the psychological causes and its physical side effects. Contacting your GP in the first instance is often the easiest way to get help and obtain further treatment. He or she may offer you counselling or dietary counselling, or refer you to a specialist for further assessment.

Family and friends can also help through their support and care. It is particularly helpful for relatives to understand that your eating disorder is your way of coping with emotional difficulties and that you may have mixed feelings about changing your eating pattern.

How can Priory help with BED?

With a large network of eating disorder facilities across the UK, our experienced professionals are committed to treating and helping individuals with a unique and varied approach. We provide an extensive range of therapy groups helping to provide you with the therapeutic treatment suited to your needs.

BED therapies

The therapies used to aid BED recovery include dietary counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Other forms of talking therapy are also helpful. CBT has become more popular over the past few years and can reduce symptoms by identifying, challenging and changing unhelpful thinking patterns and beliefs that lead to binge eating. Specific antidepressant medication can also help to reduce your urge to binge as well as treat any depressive symptoms.

Length of treatment

The type and length of treatment is dependent on the individual's circumstances and the severity of the condition. Some people are treated as outpatients, which means that they attend Priory for hourly sessions with their consultant, psychologist or therapist. Others require a more structured treatment approach which can include staying as an inpatient at one of our Priory hospitals for the duration of their treatment, where they take part in the psychological group programme as well as regular sessions with their consultant.

Can I recover from BED?

Even after many years with the illness, most people ultimately achieve a full recovery from BED, although they may experience small setbacks along the way.

We can offer you professional advice and treatments to aid BED recovery, that are suitable to your individual needs and personal experiences. BED is treatable and over the years we have helped thousands of people to create the necessary changes, enabling them to challenge their eating disorder and move forward to lead fulfilling lives.

For further details on how Priory can provide you with further assistance regarding Binge eating disorder (BED) help and treatment, please call 0800 840 3219. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here