Eating disorders remain misunderstood but affect 1.25 million people in the UK and have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. It’s important that we raise awareness and understanding to help reduce stigma and make it easier for people to feel able to seek support. Many of us eat for comfort and for celebrations. Social events and holidays like Christmas and Easter, are often centred around indulging in food. But where does over-indulging tip over into disordered eating? This blog offers an overview of Binge Eating Disorder (BED), an eating disorder that is often not recognised as an illness.
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Bine Eating Disorder (BED) involves consuming large amounts of food over a short period of time and feeling a lack of control over this. This may also include eating rapidly, when not hungry, and until uncomfortably full. Binges are often planned and occur in secret which means it can be a disorder that is hard to spot and can go undetected. Bingeing can result in feelings of shame, disgust and embarrassment which can make it hard for people to feel able to talk about it and seek support.
How does BED Develop?
Eating disorders can develop as a result of a combination of things which may include low self-esteem and confidence, perfectionism, a lack of control over other things, trauma, social pressures and ideals about body image and appearance, and a difficulty managing emotions.
How is BED Treated?
BED affects 1 in 50 of us. Of these, only 1 in 4 will receive treatment. There may be many reasons for this including stigma, not recognising this as a mental health condition and a lack of awareness of the support and treatment available. BED is treatable. NICE (the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence) recommends treatment based in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for BED, including self-help, group CBT and 1:1 CBT.
Treatment focuses on the following:
- Monitoring eating to make helpful changes. This includes planning meals and snacks to support regular eating habits.
- Understanding triggers for binge eating and developing other ways to respond to these triggers.
- Identifying underlying causes for BED to help understand the problem and find new ways to manage the difficulties that contributed to its development.
- Building awareness of emotions and learning how to manage them in helpful ways.
- Understanding and challenging negative thinking to help break unhelpful patterns maintaining the problem.
Get Help for Binge Eating Disorder
Binge Eating Disorder is a recognised condition and an experienced professional will be able to offer support. Here are some of the different ways to can get help with BED.
CBT for Binge Eating Disorder
CBT is a form of psychotherapy that helps us understand how the way we think and behave impacts on how we feel emotionally. It focuses on supporting you to make positive changes to patterns of thought and behaviour to improve the way you feel. You can find out more about this here.
Support from your GP
Speaking to your GP can be a helpful first step for seeking support. Your GP may be able to inform you about treatment options and specialist eating disorder services in your area. Read more about speaking with your GP about mental health here.
There are a number of self-help books available. When using self-help, it is important to consider the credibility of the information provided. One of the recommended CBT-based self-help books for BED is Overcoming Binge Eating by Christopher Fairburn.
Specialist Eating Disorder Support & Helplines
BEAT is an eating disorder charity that offers helplines, advice and resources to help promote awareness and offer support. Support is available through BEAT if you are worried about someone with an eating disorder.
The NHS have further information about eating disorders and the options for treatment and support.
How Brighter Minds Help with Eating Disorders
Early in my career, I worked as an eating disorder therapist within a specialist service and I’ve supported many people with different eating disorders since then. Food is necessary for our survival and so developing a healthy relationship with food is integral for our wellbeing. I understand that food is often a source of fear for those struggling with disordered eating and that it can be hard to take that initial step to seek support. If you’d like to know more about working with me, appointments are available online across the UK and you can get in touch here to find out more.
First published February 2021. Updated February 2024.