Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

What is BED?

BED is a serious eating disorder which causes individuals to develop a compulsive and uncontrollable relationship with food. Binge Eating Disorder is characterised by frequent episodes of compulsive overeating, which involves the sufferer eating a huge amount of food in one sitting, and in an uncontrolled or frenzied manner, until they go beyond the point of being comfortably full.


However, unlike anorexia and bulimia, binge eating is not associated with purging behaviours such as self-induced vomiting or abusing laxatives, and as such, this disorder can lead BED sufferers to becoming obese.

Why do I overeat?

People with BED often turn to binge eating as a means of coping with other mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, stress and other uncomfortable emotions.


However, the act of bingeing can cause BED sufferers to experience intense feelings of guilt, disgust, and low self-esteem which can then lead to more emotional eating, and the development of what can feel like a ‘vicious circle’.

In addition, compulsive overeating tends to happen in private and as such, the specific behaviours that are associated with this condition can sometimes be difficult to spot and diagnose.

For example, individuals with BED may eat a normal amount of healthy food throughout the day and in public, but then binge eat at night in the privacy of their own home. Therefore, even if these individuals do become overweight, other people may not be able to see a reason for why this might be the case.

Unlike anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, BED tends to affect both men and women equally and research suggests that this condition is more common in adults between the ages of 20 and 40.

What causes BED?

As with other eating disorders, research demonstrates that it is likely that there are a combination of factors that can lead to someone requiring expert support for binge eating, including psychological, genetic and socio-cultural influences. These include:

  • Low self-esteem and self-confidence

  • Social and cultural pressures to attain a certain type of ‘ideal’ body

  • If a family member has experienced an eating disorder

  • The pressing need to alter/numb negative emotional states such as anxiety, depression, stress, anger and feelings of emotional ‘emptiness’,  by using food

  • Stressful or traumatic events such as abuse or bereavement

  • As a result of a strict diet that excluded certain food groups,  and involved calorie control or skipping meals