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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Lott

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Updated: Feb 1, 2020

World Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Binge-Eating Disorder, or BED, is characterised by

  1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterised by:

  • Eating, in a discrete period of time (within any 2-hr period) an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most individuals would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances

  • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode

  1. The binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:

  • Eating much more rapidly than normal

  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full

  • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry

  • Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating

  • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after a binge

  1. Marked distress regarding the binge eating

  2. The binge occurs, on average, at least once a week for 3 months

  3. The binge eating is not associated with recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behaviours (as in BN) and does not occur exclusively during the course of BN or AN

Warning signs

A GP may be the first person to become aware of the symptoms of BED. People may present with apparently unrelated symptoms. A person with a history of weight fluctuation and dieting for weight control, may present requesting information about surgical approaches to weight management. They may be concealing binge eating behaviour which will only be revealed through sensitive enquiry.

Physical Signs and Symptoms of BED

Most of the physical signs and symptoms associated with Binge Eating Disorder are long-term, and these can include:

  • Weight gain, often leading to obesity

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol

  • Chronic kidney problems or kidney failure

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Diabetes

  • Stroke

  • Complications during pregnancy

  • Gallbladder disease

  • Irregular menstrual cycle

  • Skin disorders

  • Heart disease

Psychological Indicators and Effects

  • Difficulties with activities which involve food which may lead to self-imposed isolation

  • Low self esteem and embarrassment over physical appearance

  • Feeling extremely distressed, upset and anxious during and after a binge episode

  • Fear of the disapproval of others

  • Self harm or suicide attempts

  • Overly sensitive to references about weight or appearance

  • Guilt, self disgust, self loathing

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

Behavioural Impact

  • An overwhelming sense of lack of control regarding eating behaviour

  • Eating more rapidly than normal

  • Periods of uncontrolled, impulsive or continuous eating whereby a person may consume many thousands of calories, often to the point of feeling unbearably full

  • Eating when not physically hungry

  • Repeated episodes of binge eating which often results in feelings of shame or guilt

  • Eating in secret

  • Avoiding social situations, particularly those involving food.

  • Eating ‘normal’ quantities in social settings, and gorging when alone

​Recovery from BED is possible with the right support. If you're worried about yourself or someone you love, contact your GP, CAMHS or email

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