Binge eating disorder involves regularly eating large portions of food all at once until you feel uncomfortably full, and then often upset or guilty.
Binges are often planned in advance and the person may buy "special" binge foods.
Men and women of any age can get binge eating disorder, but it typically starts in the late teens or early 20s.
Symptoms of binge eating disorder
The main symptom of binge eating disorder is eating very large amounts of food in a short time, often in an out-of-control way. But symptoms may also include:
- eating very fast during a binge
- eating until you feel uncomfortably full
- eating when you're not hungry
- eating alone or secretly
- feeling depressed, guilty, ashamed or disgusted after binge eating
People who regularly eat in this way may have binge eating disorder.
Warning signs of binge eating disorder in someone else
The following warning signs could indicate that someone you care about has an eating disorder:
- eating a lot of food, very fast
- trying to hide how much they are eating
- storing up supplies of food
- putting on weight – though this doesn't happen to everyone with binge eating disorder
Getting help for binge eating disorder
If you think you may have binge eating disorder, see your GP as soon as you can.
They will ask you questions about your eating habits and how you're feeling, and will check your weight and overall health.
If they think you may have binge eating disorder, or another eating disorder, your GP should refer you to an eating disorder specialist or team of specialists.
It can be very hard to admit you have a problem and to ask for help. It may make things easier if you bring a friend or loved one with you to your appointment.
You can also talk in confidence to an adviser from eating disorders charity Beat by calling its adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline on 0808 801 0711.
Getting help for someone else
If you're concerned that a family member or friend may have binge eating disorder, let them know you're worried about them and encourage them to see their GP. You could offer to go along with them.
Read more about talking to your child about eating disorders and supporting someone with an eating disorder.
Treatment for binge eating
With the right treatment and support, most people recover from binge eating disorder, but it may take time.
The main treatments for binge eating are:
- guided self-help programmes – involves working through a book about binge eating and having sessions with a therapist to support you
- a type of talking therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – in group sessions or individual (one-on-one) sessions
Binge eating disorder often causes weight gain (though not always), which can lead to other health problems.
You shouldn't try to diet while you are having treatment as it can make your binge eating worse.
Read more about treating binge eating disorder.
Causes of binge eating
We don't know exactly what causes binge eating disorder and other eating disorders. You may be more likely to get an eating disorder if:
- you or a member of your family has a history of eating disorders, depression, or alcohol or drug addiction
- you have been criticised for your eating habits, body shape or weight
- you are overly concerned with being slim, particularly if you also feel pressure from society or your job – for example, ballet dancers, jockeys, models or athletes
- you have anxiety, low self-esteem, an obsessive personality or are a perfectionist
- you have been sexually abused