Binge eating is an eating disorder where a person feels compelled to overeat on a regular basis.
People who binge eat consume very large quantities of food over a short period of time. Individuals with BED do not attempt to get rid of the calories they consume during a binge (as in bulimia nervosa), meaning that BED is often, although not always, associated with obesity. Individuals who are overweight or obese may not realise that they are suffering from a psychological condition that is contributing to their weight difficulties.
Binge eating or ‘bingeing’ refers to the consumption of a large number of calories (minimum 3000 calories) over a relatively short period of time. In severe cases people may repeatedly binge often for hours at a time. Binge-eating is almost always associated with a sense of loss of control over eating. For individuals with BED, food binges will generally be linked to an emotional or psychological trigger, although this trigger is not always obvious to the individual. The resulting emotions (usually distress or guilt) will be much more obvious. Because of this, binges often occur when a person is not hungry. Binges may be planned in advance and will often involve “special” binge foods. In addition, certain eating behaviours are likley to be present during a binge: eating rapidly; eating until you’re uncomfortably full; eating large amounts when you’re not hungry or eating alone in order to hide the amount you are eating.
Bingeing is triggered by both physiological factors (hunger) and emotional factors such as stress, depression or anxiety. Effective treatment for binge eating disorder needs to target both the physiological and the emotional triggers as well as the underlying causes. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is known to be the most effective treatment for binge eating disorder so is most commonly recommended by our clinicians.
CBT is the current leading treatment for binge-eating disorder (NICE Guidelines, 2004). Our CBT therapists have extensive experience in providing high quality CBT to individuals who struggle with regular or occasional binge-eating. Binge-eating is known to occur in response to physiological urges to overeat as well emotional triggers. CBT focussed on both physiological and emotional triggers, establishing a healthy eating plan in order to reduce physiological urges, and providing insight into and skills for coping with emotional triggers. CBT focuses on thinking (cognitions), behaviours (what you do in response to certain thoughts), and emotions (how you feel in response to certain thoughts). CBT helps individuals to recognise their unhelpful or negative thinking, see the patterns in their behaviours and develop healthy strategies and skills to challenge or cope with their unhelpful thoughts. CBT is a structured skills based therapy that is most suitable for people who want to be guided by their therapist to find new ways of coping.
For people who binge eat in combination with other impulsive behaviours such as binge drinking or self harming, DBT may be recommended as an alternative to CBT. DBT is an emotional skills based treatment that combines eastern approaches (Bhudist theory, Eastern psychological and spiritual philosophies) and western therapies, including CBT. DBT sees bingeing as having developed as a way of coping with or surviving difficult emotions. DBT focuses on healthy ways of responding to emotions in the here and now. DBT is comprised of 4 modules: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness.
Overcoming Binge Eating
By Christopher Fairburn
Bulimia, Binge-Eating and their Treatment
By Professor J Hubert Lacey, Dr Bryony Bamford, Amy Brown