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What are the symptoms of binge eating disorder (BED)?

At Priory, we understand that binge eating disorder (BED) is a debilitating condition that can have a hugely detrimental, long-term impact on an individual’s psychological and physical wellbeing. In addition, because BED is a highly secretive disorder, with many sufferers feeling too embarrassed and ashamed to eat excessively in front of other people, this condition can often go undiagnosed and untreated for a long period of time.

The signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder can vary from person to person, and can be categorised into psychological, physical and behavioural/social symptoms.

What are the physical symptoms of a binge eating disorder?

  • Gaining weight as a result of eating so much unhealthy food
  • Lack of fitness and general ill health as a result of your unhealthy diet
  • Bad skin and hair due to lack of nutrients
  • Muscle aches and cramps
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Medical complications like morbid obesity, diabetes and hypertension

The psychological symptoms of a binge eating disorder

  • An overwhelming feeling of guilt, shame, embarrassment and self-disgust after binge eating
  • Binge eating to cope with other distressing emotions/psychological problems
  • Feeling as though no amount of food will be able to satisfy you
  • Having an distorted and excessively negative body image – this could also be a sign that you are struggling with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
  • Fear or embarrassment about eating sugary or fatty foods in front of other people
  • Spending a lot of time thinking about when you can have your next bingeing episode, and feeling as though this has taken over your life
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Mood swings
  • Anger, irritability and impatience – finding that you get angry for no reason and taking this out on those who are closest to you
  • Low self-esteem and a reduction in confidence
  • Exacerbation of any existing mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Murali Sekar (MBBS, MRCPsych) in October 2022.

Behavioural and social symptoms of binge eating
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What are the long-term effects of BED?
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Self-help tips for dealing with the early signs of BED
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