Understanding Binge Eating Disorder: The Symptoms

Modern life isn’t easy. The challenges normally start when we’re children (stress at home, pressure at school, social media comparison) and don’t tend to get easier as we become adults. It’s perfectly normal for your brain to develop coping mechanisms to help with the struggles. Sometimes, our brain learns to use food to help us cope.

The unfortunate truth is that even though Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the UK, it’s so heavily stigmatised and shamed that it doesn’t get anywhere near as much attention as it deserves. BED is a complex condition that doesn’t discriminate, affecting individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and body types.

What Is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder, the most common eating disorder in the UK, is characterised by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food, often quickly and to the point of discomfort. It’s often accompanied by a feeling of being out of control during the binge, followed by shame, distress, or guilt afterwards. Importantly, these episodes are not followed by compensatory behaviours such as purging, which distinguishes BED from other eating disorders like bulimia nervosa.

The Behaviours:

If you have binge eating disorder, you might experience:

  • Eating much more rapidly than normal,
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full,
  • Consuming large amounts of food when not physically hungry,
  • Eating alone due to embarrassment about the quantity of food consumed,
  • Feelings of disgust, depression, or severe guilt after overeating.

Always remember that everyone is unique and so is their eating disorder. You may experience all of those symptoms, or just some of them. They might happen multiple times a day or less frequently. There is no right and wrong and we will never make you feel like your experiences don’t matter or are less important that someone else’s.

It’s crucial to understand that these behaviours are symptoms of a deeper issue, not choices. They are not a sign of weakness or a lack of self-discipline – often the opposite!

The Thoughts and Emotions

The inner world of someone with BED can be a deeply unhappy place. Thoughts often spiral around guilt, shame, and a massive sense of inadequacy. There’s a powerful internal conflict – the desire to stop the cycle of binge eating clashes with feelings of comfort and escape food provides during moments of distress. This duality is a hallmark of BED, making it a relentless emotional battleground.

It’s Not About Willpower

One of the most damaging misconceptions about BED is that it’s a result of a lack of self-control. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Eating disorders, including BED, are complex conditions influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, psychological issues, societal pressures, and more. Recognising BED as a serious health condition is the first step towards understanding and empathy.

Having too much willpower or self-control could also be part of the problem! Because you feel so bad after a binge, it would be really understandable if you decided to go “super healthy” and try to control your eating. The problem is that lots of people actually go too far in controlling their food and end up in a restriction phase, which can trigger a binge. A lot of the clients we meet come to us in a restrict-binge cycle that they’re struggling to break.

The Path to Recovery

Recovery from BED is not only

 possible; it’s a journey that many have embarked upon with success. BED actually has the highest recovery rates of all the eating disorders. It begins with reaching out for support. Treatment options vary but most people can recover working with an eating disorder specialist therapist.

The path to recovery is personal and unique for everyone, offering an opportunity to learn healthier coping mechanisms, improve self-esteem, and ultimately find a more peaceful relationship with food and yourself.

A Final Word

If you or someone you know is struggling with binge eating disorder, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. BED is not a choice, nor is it a reflection of character. It’s a serious health condition that deserves compassion, understanding, and professional support. Recovery is a journey of healing, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. With the right support and resources, it’s a journey that can lead to a much healthier, and freer, relationship with yourself and food.