Binge Eating Disorder

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder which can be distinguished by recurring episodes of compulsive overeating (usually very quickly and to the point of discomfort), while feeling a lack of control or being unable to stop. Often feelings of guilt and shame will follow an episode and these feelings can then lead to a person using food to cope and therefore creating a vicious cycle.

It is almost as common among men as it is in women,  and is thought to be the most common eating disorder in Ireland.

Binge eating disorder (BED) is different to bulimia as it is not associated with the continued use of unhealthy compensatory behaviours such as purging through vomiting, laxatives, or excessive exercise. Therefore this often leads to significant weight gain, with up to two-thirds of sufferers being labelled as clinically obese.

However, this disorder can be diagnosed at any weight and a sufferer may also diet frequently and their weight may fluctuate due to this ‘yo-yo’ diet effect.

Warning Signs

Similarly to bulimia, binge eating episodes are often done in secret so it can be difficult to spot. However evidence of binge eating can include the sudden disappearance of large amounts of food, or lots of empty wrappers and containers either hidden or in the bin.

People struggling with binge eating disorder often appear uncomfortable or embarrassed eating around people and therefore may withdraw from their usual activities and lifestyle habits. There is usually a disruption to their normal eating behaviours with no real meal structure. This two factors combined, often lead to the individual isolating themselves and creating their own schedules to make time for binge eating sessions.

As with most eating disorders, the person with BED may have feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, or lack of control and are using their disorder as a coping mechanism. They may show extreme concern about their body shape and will remark on their perceived flaws in their appearance.

The physical symptoms of BED will include significant weight gain or dramatic weight fluctuation. General digestive problems, such as constipation, diarrhoea, or acid reflux. They may also have joint or muscular pain and hypertension.

Getting Help

Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder that people often try to recover from alone. They try to break their ‘habit’ and if they fail they may feel depressed or shameful. Which in turn, may lead to more episodes and further social isolation. An important thing to remember is that you do not need to go through this issue alone. There is plenty of options for you or your loved one to help them recover and get the treatment they need.

BED is a psychological disorder as well, so more often than not, sufferers will need the help and support of professional health care workers, such as nutritionists, therapists, and psychiatrists. Professionals can help you identify and understand the underlying issues behind your disorder and help you identify your binge eating triggers.

Therapy can help you establish a healthy way to cope with stress or anxiety and regulate your emotions so that you’re no longer dependent on your disorder. Family therapy can also help you identify any triggers within your family but it can also help them understand your disorder better and therefore create a safe environment where your issues can be discussed.

Although seeking treatment can be daunting, you should not be ashamed of your disorder. Admitting you have a problem is a courageous thing to do. It’s the first step in your recovery, so don’t worry about the whole staircase yet, you’ll get there eventually.

For additional information, check online at:

You can also visit your GP and ask about what treatments would suit you best or visit the national eating disorder or Ireland’s website;, or call their helpline: 1890200444.


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